I S Yasmin was on a deserted highway once, waiting off-road for a car to pass by. On another occasion, she shadowed a man who hopped off a bus, got into a train, and then a car, all in one day. Today, recalling her initial days as a rookie who went in the guise of a nurse one day, and salesgirl on another for investigations, she acknowledges how risky her job is. “But I am able to find solutions to problems no one else can,” she says. “So, it’s all worth it.” Yasmin, who is considered the first woman detective in the city, was recently honoured with an award by Coimbatore-based We Wonder Women, an NGO.
Yasmin has been in the field for over a decade, and runs her own agency — ISY Verification Service in the city, with 75 freelance private investigators across the country, with a few abroad as well. But before it all began, Yasmin owned a beauty salon and a boutique in the city. She still owns the boutique, but has taken a backseat in its running.
“I started out in 2011 at an agency in Chennai,” she recalls, adding that two years later, she established her own verification service. She deals with a lot of cases relating to trust issues within families and business partners, and also does employee verification for companies. “I’ve had worried parents get me to find out why their teenager was acting differently all of a sudden,” she says: “This has led us to people dealing with drugs, and there have been occasions when I’ve gotten close enough with my subjects to sit them down and talk them out of substance abuse.”
She knows she has earned several enemies over the years. “But I’ve also earned people who trust me, which keeps me going.” The work of a detective, in the traditional sense, has never changed over the years, says Yasmin. “It’s a lot of backbreaking work on the field: tracking a particular person for days, and sometimes even months till we get that elusive answer to the question in our mind,” she says, adding that technology and social media do have their benefits. “But they also aid criminals,” she points out. “Which makes our job more difficult.”
When she is on the move, Yasmin keeps changing attires so as to not get noticed by her subject. “In my younger days, I would carry several T-shirts and keep changing them at public toilets on regular intervals,” she says. “What with lack of clean restrooms on highways, I would cut down on food and water during investigation. A packet of nuts in my pocket or a fruit would power my entire expedition.”
Have all these years of dealing with people who fail to trust even their most loved ones, affected her? “Yes, there are times I wonder why one must make a big deal of something small, rather than talk it out with the person concerned,” says Yasmin. “In such cases, I tell them so directly.” But then, she is also cautious. “We don’t know the other side of the story, so I don’t brush anything aside without serious thought.”
Contrary to the assumption about detectives being doubtful of every person they come across, Yasmin believes there is a good side to people. She says: “People make mistakes, I think everyone deserves to be trusted with a second chance.”