My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Deepa Anappara’s debut novel is an extraordinary work of fiction that is relevant to the most desolate times we live in. Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line talks about a settlement in Delhi where people live in harmony even though they have very limited means. The children here are in a better situation than the street children who have to reside in slums. Jai, Pari and Faiz are 3 children, 10-year old’s, living the carefree life of being a child. Disaster strikes when one of their classmates goes missing and the police collect bribe to do their job. It is from this inefficiency and indifference that Jai, having grown up on a daily dose of crime shows on TV, appoints himself as the chief detective and recruits Pari and Faiz as his assistants.
The story then progresses brilliantly thru the experiences of these children, in part humorous as their antics brings a smile on anyone’s face. The exuberance and the naivety with which they go about doing this detective work was so heartfelt and touching. But by the time the last page is done, each of them has lost their innocence having been witness to the hard realities of their lives, separated by religion, caste, social norms, and what not.
The basti they live in becomes a tinderbox with factions of religion tending to shred themselves to pieces and the embers never die down completely and this has been how it is for such a long time that even very recently in Feb 2020, before the Covid-19 brought the whole world to a standstill, a part of north-east Delhi burned with communal riots. ‘CAA’ and ‘NRC’ in India became the reason this time and the riots that were unleashed was one of the bloodiest in history and the carnage was brutal to witness.
Words fail to describe the rewarding and enriching experience this story evoked in me, especially with a subject so bleak as the missing children and with an ending that was desolate but still hopeful, Djinn Patrol on The Purple Line was utterly captivating and moving. The resilience in children to always bounce back and to live however their circumstances, was very emotional. I am hopelessly in love with the character of Jai, his exuberance and cheekiness, Pari and her Hermione-like addiction to books, in fact she’s the only one who actually knows who Sherlock and Watson are when both Faiz and Jai become goggle-eyed hearing it.
The language used by the author is another important factor of the book, maybe the use of Hindi and Urdu along with English might seem difficult for many but that essential part retained the flavor of story brilliantly.
This is a work of fiction that deserves all the accolades and laurels. Highly recommended indeed.
‘Djinns aren’t real, but if they were, they would only steal children because we have the most delicious souls’
Nine-year-old Jai watches too many reality police shows, thinks he’s smarter than his friend Pari (even though she always gets top marks) and considers himself to be a better boss than Faiz (even though Faiz is the one with a job). When a boy at school goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from episodes of Police Patrol to find him. With Pari and Faiz by his side, Jai ventures into some of the most dangerous parts of the city; the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But kids continue to vanish, and the trio must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.
When the fog of rumour rolls back, the detective game is no longer child’s play. And as the disappearances edge ever closer to home, the lives of Jai and his friends will never be the same again.
‘This story is a talisman. Hold it close to your hearts.’