The Capital’s Nancy Drew
Akriti Khatri is tall, smart and lively. A Delhi University graduate, she holds an MBA in marketing. But the 26-year-old is not a marketer with a multinational, she is Delhi’s Nancy Drew — the youngest woman running a detective agency in the city. Khatri specialises in exposing unfaithful partners, investigating extra-marital affairs and administering the ‘loyalty test’, which helps find out for you how loyal your partner is by setting up a honey trap.
The suave and soft-spoken Khatri hardly seems to belong to the tribe of hardboiled gumshoes. She talks of the ‘talent’ for spying she’s had since her school and college days, when her fellow students relied on her for low-down on teachers, students and university politics. “I was called khabri, both in school and college. My girl friends would turn to me for information about a boy they were interested in: where does he live, his family background, what kind of a guy he is… The information I gave would always turn to be correct; besides, everyone would approach me for juicy bits about teachers, too,” says Khatri, sitting in her Preet Vihar office in east Delhi.
Khatri won the Youth Parliament Competition, organised by the Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, when she was at a central school in east Delhi. She says that it was only a curiosity about the work of a detective that led her to consider taking up spying as a career. In 2006, when she was just out of college, she saw an advertisement of a detective agency in a newspaper listing the services they offered. “I called them and said I wanted to work with them. They hired me immediately and assigned me a pre-marital investigation, which involved checking the family background of a boy who was a charted accountant. I conducted the enquiry posing as a college girl looking for a PG accommodation and found out that the wife of the boy’s elder brother had left her husband a few months after their wedding. The boy’s family had a bad reputation among the neighbours. My bosses were impressed, and I found my work quite adventurous,” says Khatri, who is single and lives with parents in Shahdara. Her father works with the CPWD and mother with the railways.
But she was not yet sure whether being a private detective would be a good career option. So, she picked a distance learning programme to do an MBA that she completed in 2008. Soon after, she began work as a marketing manager. “But I quit the job after a year and a half because of a pushy and ill-tempered boss. Besides, I realised I loved spying more than marketing and went back to the agency where I first worked as a detective. Last year, I started my own detective agency,” says Khatri. Undercover operations and surveillance — which involves discreetly trailing a person armed with gadgets such as spy cameras, audio and video recorders for proof of cheating — are part of her work profile now.
Khatri says her work as a sleuth has shown her the unsavoury side of Delhi — “a city of new money and fast changing social and familial values”. She tells us, with the enthusiasm of a college girl, a lot of juicy tales to prove her point. A majority of her cases, Khatri says, involve post-marital investigation, which involves conducting surveillance and gathering photographic proof of an extra-marital affair. “Adultery is rampant like never before. Recently, an 18-year-old girl from Noida came to me with her mother. She suspected that her father was having an affair. On investigating, I found that her father was involved with not one, but three women. Curiously, a lot of married women want me to give them photographic evidence of their husband’s infidelity when they themselves are having affairs. These women want proof against their husbands in case they themselves are caught,” says Khatri, dressed in a purple shirt and jeans.
Khatri says she is approached by people in live-in relationships who are suspicious of their partners. “I also advise people how best they can use the proof gathered against their partners, and how not to unnecessarily suspect your spouse when no proof of infidelity is found.”
Khatri says she is approached by parents who want her to photograph their daughters’ boyfriends with ‘other girls’. This is to show the boyfriends as “characterless”. “Though there are models willing to do the job for us for a price, I do not take up such assignments as a matter of principle,” says Khatri, who charges Rs 5,000 for a day’s surveillance.
She says infidelity is a bigger problem in Delhi than in any other city, and women here are as unfaithful as the men.
On whether looks and being a female help in the profession, she says, “Yes, people entertain me better and divulge more than they would to a male detective. Besides, I enter homes and offices and talk to people without raising suspicion. They feel because I am a female, I will be harmless.” Khatri plans to open Delhi’s first school to train aspiring private detectives.
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