Written by Deepa Anappara, this sensational debut has already caught the eyes of the audience and literary prize organisations. Having been shortlisted for the JCB Prize 2020 and on the Longlist for the Atta Galatta Prize, Bangalore Literature Festival, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is definitely going places with its simple yet powerful narrative. Going by the several rave reviews the book has received I decided to read it myself (while I was staying at home during Pujo) and really liked the story. Here is why I think Djinn Patrol… is definitely worth a read.
Straight out of a Crime Series: Just like the protagonist Jai intently gazes and notices the working of the Police officers and detectives on Crime shows; the audience is mesmerized at the usage of the same techniques (to whatever possible extent) by three young children (by young I mean around 8 – 10 years) . Visualising the scenes while reading a book is a habit most readers have automatically imbibed by now and while reading this book, I am sure you would feel like you are watching another episode of a Crime Series. Being a fan of such series myself, this way of structuring the narrative struck a chord with me on the first go.
Gripping narrative: Generally books are narrated by protagonists who are post teens or older; but here it is narrated by children. Several children, their family conditions and relationships, drive forward the storyline. What is intriguing is the validity of the situations. Children, we are aware are immature, hasty, emotional, indecisive and definitely need guidance in their formative years. But the three young protagonist- Jai, Pari and Faiz seem to be taking the role of leaders and guiding the search patrol for finding their missing friends. However with child-like traits in them, sometime they too get distracted towards objects and activities of their choice which makes their focus waver. This only pushes the audience towards a much-needed reality taking into consideration that distraction is part of Nature and such occurrences happen oh-so-often than is actually portrayed.
A tale of the hypocritical society: Anappara talks of the ground realities and nuances existing in our liberal, democratic, and progressive society. While at one end we usually see children with their parents, friends, family enjoying in the eye-glistening lights of modern urbanscape; the same urbanscape in its darker side devours children, men, women and even voiceless animals mercilessly. This brutally honest depiction compels the readers to rethink about the society they live in, the people with their double faces that one interacts with daily, and if there is any way in which the world can be made a better place through individual contribution. When the saviours of the people turn into demons through false power and arrogance of money, it is up to the common people to come together and fight for what is rightfully theirs.
Social Evils at its peak: Talk about rape, kidnapping, murder, trafficking, prostitution, beggary (which has now become one of the biggest social racket), hooliganism, bribery, communalism, gender disparity -each one of them has been touched upon in Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. It is indeed commendable that while each of the problems has their own space and page limits, they smoothly transition and complement the story taking it forward. Nowhere will the reader Sigh upon the inclusion of so many individual social evils. What is interesting is that most of the wrong-doings are discovered by the children throughout the course of their investigation. The ability to discover the wrongs in the society and contemplate about them forming one’s own opinion gives Anappara leverage as a writer where the readers also read about its effect on the minds of the children and their response to it.
Depiction of Child Psychology: One of the major themes for the year 2020 is mental health. Keeping in mind the claustrophobic nature and spatial limitations due to COVID-19, discussing about mental health is an absolute must and no shame attached! A substantial part of mental health constitutes child psychology as they are the most vulnerable. From the very beginning Jai, Pari and Faiz have an up and running conscience. They analyse everything as per the crime scene that they watch but more in order to find their friend than becoming a hero. Faiz, having lost his father decides to help his brother by working shifts to earn for the household. Even though this is voluntarily done, this depicts the positive side of the roots of responsibility and discipline instilled in him; but on the flip side also amounts to the much criticised child labour. What is notable about Faiz’s character in particular is that though very young, he understands the idea of communalism very clearly and tries to adjust himself to avoid confrontations. This only portrays how the evil in the society has not spared children as well.
It is hard to believe that Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is a debut novel because of the simplicity of the concepts and finesse of the storyline. The juxtaposition of the past and the present told and retold from the point of view of children makes the novel stand out and connect with the readers. Hope to read more from the author in future.
No. of Pages: 320