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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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I spy,
gay grooms!

The Pandits were perturbed. They had just received an anonymous letter that said their daughter Shweta’s would-be husband was gay. The Pandits weren’t sure if the letter writer was concerned, or was merely lying. So they hired a detective agency to unearth the truth.

Chennai’s Sun Detectives was not new to the job. Within 24 hours, Shweta’s fiancé, Anand Narayanan, a Chennai-based software professional, received a call. “We set a trap for Narayanan. A woman called him, sent him intimate text messages and urged him to meet her at a beach bar. Narayanan showed no interest,” says Varadaraj Rathinaveluj, director, Sun Detectives.

Then the agency launched Plan B. “A male operative was sent to woo Narayanan. This time he responded with great interest,” recalls Rathinaveluj. Investigations revealed that Narayanan was having an affair with a male colleague at work. The Pandits called off the wedding.

Two years ago, Rathinaveluj created a new job vertical at his detective agency — the “honey trappers.” This is a team of 12 young women whose work is to woo prospective grooms to ascertain their sexual leanings. “A honey trapper acts like a bait. The idea is that any red-blooded male will respond to an attractive woman’s overtures,” explains Rathinaveluj. If he doesn’t, then Mr Right probably has an eye for Mr Wrong.

Detective agencies across urban India have been conducting pre-matrimonial investigations for long — where they check the financial affairs, background and marital status of prospective grooms. “But of late many parents want to find out if grooms-to-be have homosexual leanings,” says Rathinaveluj. Sun Detectives gets 10 such requests every year.

Growing awareness about homosexuality has fuelled this trend, feels Rathinaveluj. “The Chennai family court is flooded with divorce cases filed by women who claim that their husbands are not sexually active.” Also, in the public mind, homosexuality is closely associated with diseases such as AIDS. “This has made parents paranoid,” says G.K. Karanth, professor of sociology at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.

Urban India offers a new found anonymity to the young. “Most arranged marriages are fixed through the Internet, where the bride and groom’s families don’t know each other. So commercial agencies are being asked to verify every detail about the spouse,” says Baldev Kumar Puri, chairman, AMX Detective, Delhi.

The probes are not limited to arranged matches. Software professionals Anita Sharma and Vijay Chauhan had been dating for two years before they decided to tie the knot. But Anita’s parents asked AMX Detective to conduct a check on Vijay — his family, finances, sexual leanings and whether he had any major diseases. “We shadowed Vijay for 10 days and found that he was a member of a gay club in Delhi,” says Puri. The marriage was called off.

It’s not just prospective grooms who are put under the scanner. Hyderabad’s Third Eye Intelligence Bureau has been conducting homosexuality checks in post-matrimonial investigations too. “We get a lot of cases where wives doubt their husband’s sexual leanings because they don’t show any interest in them,” says Rajender Khanna, chief investigation advisor, Third Eye Intelligence Bureau.

Although the agencies mostly probe men’s sexual preferences, there have been cases where would-be brides have been checked for lesbian leanings. Two months ago, the agency was asked to look into the activities of a 25-year-old woman, Namrata, who worked in a call centre and lived in a hostel in the city. “We found that Namrata had a relationship with her roommate,” says Geetha Parthiban, director, Alpha Detective Services.

Detective agencies have discovered ingenious ways to expose an individual’s sexual preferences. Sun Detectives’ “honey trappers” have “intimate” telephone conversations with the men being investigated. “Then they meet them at a beach, bar or restaurant and woo them,” says Rathinaveluj. “We are very choosy about the women we hire as ‘honey trappers’,” he adds. The job requirements demand that a woman be young, good looking and have good communication skills. She has to be bold, dress well and know how to drive at least a two-wheeler, he says.

Sleuths from the agency have also become members of several gay clubs in Chennai. “When we get a request to check if a groom is homosexual, we find out if he is a member of these clubs,” says Rathinaveluj. The agency charges Rs 30,000 to conduct a homosexuality check and takes 10 days to do the job.

The most economical options that detective agencies offer are the traditional methods of round-the-clock shadowing, tracking phone calls and getting information from a person’s friends and colleagues. “We are able to paint a clear picture of a man’s sexual activities with these methods,” says Bhavna Paliwal, director, Tejas Detective, Delhi.

Clearly, nothing escapes the spies’ eyes anymore.

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