This is a special book, looking at the serious subject matter of child trafficking in India through the eyes and empathy of children. Now out in paperback, Deepa Anappara’s debut novel vividly takes you into their impoverished shanty town with candour and humility. Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2020.
DJINN PATROL ON THE PURPLE LINE
BY DEEPA ANAPPARA
This is a special thought provoking book club read, looking at the serious subject matter of child trafficking in India through the eyes and empathy of children. Now out in paperback, Deepa Anappara’s debut novel vividly takes you into their impoverished shanty town with candour and humility.
Jai lives with his friends Pari and Faiz in the slums of an unnamed Indian city. When children start to go missing from their shanty town (basti), they take it upon themselves to try and find out who is responsible - or have they been taken by an imaginary djinn? Jai is obsessed with detective programmes on TV, in particular Police Patrol, and so persuades his two best friends to help him solve the mystery of the disappearance of their fellow classmate Bahadur. As they set forth on their mission, so the fragility of their basti existence becomes evident.
What makes the story work is that all the children have hope. Pari is determined to work extra hard to get a good education to go to a top school. Jai’s sister trains as a track athlete every day so the coach won’t drop her from the team. Jai wants to be a detective. Yet to venture beyond the safety of the basti is dangerous as they discover when they take the Purple Line to the station.
As more families find their children disappearing, so the book takes a more serious tone as families unite in trying to keep their badly paid jobs, whilst trying to protect their children.
This novel touches on many different aspects of slum life. As Anappara says in her afterword, as many as 180 children are said to go missing in India every day. The huge divide between those in the basti and the neighbouring hi fi buildings behind their gated community is laid bare. The ineffectiveness and unwillingness of the police to interfere, the corruptness of those in charge and the fragility of prejudices between Hindus and Muslims is exposed.
The Den were all endeared to Jai and his two friends and the novel provided plenty of talking points for book club discussions. The children's enviable humour and acceptance of their situation, together with their willingness to see the good in everything, give life and humour to this smog covered destitution. And have the box of tissues ready as the ending is heart-breaking.
Longlisted for Women's Prize for Fiction 2020.