Outside the gates of a residential society in New Delhi, in the shadows of the trees, Bhavna Paliwal quietly steps out of her SUV. She is in disguise, dressed like a domestic help in a cheap orange polyester salwar-kameez, chappals from the local market, plastic bangles and chipped nail paint. Her story is that she has been spurned by her lover and is in desperate need of any work she can lay her hands on. There follows a week of gossiping and complaining with the other maids, including one in particular who is working in the house of the suspect, and Paliwal has all the information she needs. Case: pre-matrimonial investigation. Period of investigation: three weeks. Result: not suited, the groom is having an affair with the maid.
The 40-year-old Paliwal is India’s very own Precious Ramotswe in the flesh. Plump and jolly, she is a master of discreet disguises, with a gamut of investigative skills to her credit. She can tell you if your partner is cheating on you, help you fight wrongful alimony or battle false criminal charges. She can detect frauds in your firm and sniff out corruption, to list a few items in her repertoire. She is one of a growing number of women who live the thrilling life of private detectives, veiled by the garb of ordinariness.