As a child, while most of the girls in my class took to “Naughtiest Girl In The Class”, the story titles that I hid in between my maths books were usually “Famous Five”, “Secret Seven” or “Nancy Drew”. I was the typical dreamy kid, whose favourite day fantasy was Batman and Superman fighting it out over a newly discovered spaceship. Everyone in my family thought I would end up behind a laptop writing codes for a sci-fi / mystery game, instead I chose to be a mystery solver and ended up being a “corporate investigator”.
Till a few years ago, my father would use polished coinage like “risk consultant”, “strategic intelligence consultant” to describe my profession amidst his peer and social circle. Now, exasperated at the blank looks that people give him, he sticks to the description “my daughter is a spy”. The reactions that follow are interesting but quite often not very funny. Then again but, when has his youngest one abided by the social conventions?
They laughed at me, when I went to B school and proudly declared that I was there to be a “security consultant and investigator” – that it was my life’s calling. They never believed me when I till date say that nothing exhilarates me more than my time at the shooting range. Somewhere I guess, I challenge them because, they cannot “bucket” me. I have this theory of buckets, that the world tends to put you as the “normal” bucket keeping in mind what they can do / is achievable to them. The rest is put to the other bucket with labels of “unconventional”, “weird”, “diverse”, “strange”, “rare”? Given a thought but, unconventional for whom? Diverse to what? Rarity amidst which parameters? There are no answers except that you would go to the first bucket that the society has convinced you to accept as “normal”.
Truth is, we are all normal in our own ways and crazier compared to others. There’s no convention that was set up when the rules of profession were laid down. Our perceptions that a woman in security must be a taekwondo belt wielding expert, is just as archaic as the concept that a supermodel cannot be a mathematician. Yes, perceptions that defy logic!
Professions of choice are not mere jobs, they are passions. I am proud to be living one and my gender doesn’t define my role in it. In fact, just the opposite, for the moment I let my gender define my role in it, my competition pool shrinks so drastically that I often feel without a challenge – the worst thing for a professional whose dream is to just grow.
My profession is not just unconventional, it is challenging and yet intriguing in its own way. Quite often I know the headlines for the next day, for I contributed to it and yet my secret prayer is that may my name never splash. While to the world, Castle, Crime Patrol and Savdhaan India’s glorify the crime detection, for us it is lurking in the shadows that helps us survive. I have survived threats and risks and each of the landmines that I have walked into have only made me brave.
It has always been an easy journey and I have no qualms admitting that. There have been times when I have walked into a board room and they have looked at me and waited for someone else to follow (a man in most cases) who would look like a forensic expert or a someone who in their eyes is more capable of leading the surveillance assignment. As “glass ceiling” breaking as it sounds, the fun lies in seeing their scepticism change into awe when you present the findings that you gathered during last night’s tailing of the suspect. While, there is awe there is often also drama that surrounds you. I remember once, leading an assignment that involved tracking of the suspect in Mexico and hence I was working way past midnight. I hadn’t noticed when my mother (who was visiting me then) crept up behind me at my study and had heard me whispering to my agent on ground “be careful, don’t get attacked, he has links to the local muscle power”. She was convinced that I was involved in some cartel activity and demanded that I leave town with her right then and return to a “normal” 9-5 job at my hometown!
Challenges indeed galore, yet those around me swear by that nothing gives me more pleasure than solving a case to perfection. Once a male counterpart had joked that, women make better investigators because of two attributes - our innate longing of “closure” for everything doesn’t let us rest till we have solved the case and our over thinking nature helps cover all grounds. No matter, how sexist, I had taken pride in the fact that how beautifully he had turned around two of the most joked about attributes to something so relatable. That is the beauty of taking up something and excelling in it when the world least expects you to. Somewhere, you find peace in interpretations that defy routine and monotony.
My friends have this favourite punch line in a social setting, when someone asks me what do I do for a living? Before I can even clear my throat, someone always jumps in with their favourite line – “She is Daya (of the popular tele serial CID), just learning to break doors”. While, there are snickers and eyebrow raised giggles, I usually stand tall and smile, for just like to my bunch of loving idiots the joke never gets old, to my own passionate self, the feeling never gets old that somewhere with that introduction I am breaking down stereotypes for sure, as for doors, well to barge into one with a revolver in hand and scream “Freeze”, is a dream I am yet to fulfil. Someday, for sure.
Sagarika Chakraborty, is the CEO to a young start-up named IIRIS and works out of Mumbai. She is a lawyer turned MBA who decided that investigations and security consulting is her calling. In her spare time she can be found researching on the latest trends about serial killers and latest discoveries in the World War II archives.