Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

by Deepa Anappara


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Discover the debut novel that “announces the arrival of a literary supernova” (The New York Times Book Review),“a drama of childhood that is as wild as it is intimate” (Chigozie Obioma).
In a sprawling Indian city, three friends venture into the most dangerous corners to find their missing classmate. . . .

Down market lanes crammed with too many people, dogs, and rickshaws, past stalls that smell of cardamom and sizzling oil, below a smoggy sky that doesn’t let through a single blade of sunlight, and all the way at the end of the Purple metro line lies a jumble of tin-roofed homes where nine-year-old Jai lives with his family. From his doorway, he can spot the glittering lights of the city’s fancy high-rises, and though his mother works as a maid in one, to him they seem a thousand miles away. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line plunges readers deep into this neighborhood to trace the unfolding of a tragedy through the eyes of a child as he has his first perilous collisions with an unjust and complicated wider world.

Jai drools outside sweet shops, watches too many reality police shows, and considers himself to be smarter than his friends Pari (though she gets the best grades) and Faiz (though Faiz has an actual job). When a classmate goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from TV to find him. He asks Pari and Faiz to be his assistants, and together they draw up lists of people to interview and places to visit.

But what begins as a game turns sinister as other children start disappearing from their neighborhood. Jai, Pari, and Faiz have to confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force, and rumors of soul-snatching djinns. As the disappearances edge ever closer to home, the lives of Jai and his friends will never be the same again.

Drawing on real incidents and a spate of disappearances in metropolitan India, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line is extraordinarily moving, flawlessly imagined, and a triumph of suspense. It captures the fierce warmth, resilience, and bravery that can emerge in times of trouble and carries the reader headlong into a community that, once encountered, is impossible to forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593129197
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 20,218
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Deepa Anappara grew up in Kerala, southern India, and worked as a journalist in cities including Mumbai and Delhi. Her reports on the impact of poverty and religious violence on the education of children won a Developing Asia Journalism Award, an Every Human has Rights Media Award, and a Sanskriti-Prabha Dutt Fellowship in Journalism. A portion of her debut novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, won the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award, and the Bridport/Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award. She has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia,  where she is currently studying for a Ph.D. on a CHASE doctoral fellowship.

Read an Excerpt


—upside-down eyes and count five holes in our tin roof. There might be more, but I can’t see them because the black smog outside has wiped the stars off the sky. I picture a djinn crouching down on the roof, his eye turning like a key in a lock as he watches us through a hole, waiting for Ma and Papa and Runu-Didi to fall asleep so that he can draw out my soul. Djinns aren’t real, but if they were, they would only steal children because we have the most delicious souls.

My elbows wobble on the bed, so I lean my legs against the wall. Runu-Didi stops counting the seconds I have been topsy-turvy and says, “Arrey, Jai, I’m right here and still you’re cheating-cheating. You have no shame, kya?” Her voice is high and jumpy because she’s too happy that I can’t stay upside down for as long as she can. 

Didi and I are having a headstand contest but it’s not a fair one. The yoga classes at our school are for students in Standard Six and above, and Runu-Didi is in Standard Seven, so she gets to learn from a real teacher. I’m in Standard Four, so I have to rely on Baba Devanand on TV, who says that if we do headstands, children like me will: 

·       never have to wear glasses our whole lives; 
·       never have white in our hair or black holes in our teeth; 
·       never have puddles in our brains or slowness in our arms and legs; 
·       always be No. 1 in School + College + Office + Home. 

I like headstands a lot more than the huff-puff exercises Baba Devanand does with his legs crossed in the lotus position. But right now, if I stay upside down any longer, I’ll break my neck, so I flump to the bed that smells of coriander powder and raw onions and Ma and bricks and cement and Papa. 

“Baba Jai has been proved to be a conman,” Runu-Didi shouts like the newspeople whose faces redden every night from the angry news they have to read out on TV. “Will our nation just stand and watch?” 

“Uff, Runu, you’re giving me a headache with your screaming,” Ma says from the kitchen corner of our house. She’s shaping rotis into perfect rounds with the same rolling pin that she uses to whack my backside when I shout bad words while Didi talks to Nana-Nani on Ma’s mobile phone. 

“I won I won I won,” Didi sings now. She’s louder than next-door’s TV and next-to-next-door’s howling baby and the neighbors who squabble every day about who stole water from whose water barrel. 

I stick my fingers in my ears. Runu-Didi’s lips move but it’s as if she’s speaking the bubble language of fish in a glass tank. I can’t hear a word of her chik-chik. If I lived in a big house, I would take my shut-ears and run up the stairs two at a time and squash myself inside a cupboard. But we live in a basti, so our house has only one room. Papa likes to say that this room has everything we need for our happiness to grow. He means me and Didi and Ma, and not the TV, which is the best thing we own. 

From where I’m lying on the bed, I can see the TV clearly. It looks down on me from a shelf that also holds steel plates and aluminum tins. Round letters on the TV screen say, Dilli: Police Commissioner’s Missing Cat Spotted. Sometimes the Hindi news is written in letters that look like they are spurting blood, especially when the newspeople ask us tough questions we can’t answer, like: 

Does a Ghost Live in the Supreme Court? 

Are Pigeons Terrorists Trained by Pakistan? 
Is a Bull this Varanasi Sari Shop’s Best Customer? 
Did a Rasgulla Break Up Actress Veena’s Marriage? 

Ma likes such stories because she and Papa can argue about them for hours. 

My favorite shows are ones that Ma says I’m not old enough to watch, like Police Patrol and Live Crime. Sometimes Ma switches off the TV right in the middle of a murder because she says it’s too sick-making. But sometimes she leaves it on because she likes guessing who the evil people are and telling me how the policemen are sons-of-owls for never spotting criminals as fast as she can. 

Runu-Didi has stopped talking to stretch her hands behind her back. She thinks she’s Usain Bolt, but she’s only on the school’s relay team. Relay isn’t a real sport. That’s why Ma and Papa let her take part though some of the chachas and chachis in our basti say running brings dishonor to girls. Didi says basti-people will shut up once her team wins the inter-district tournament and also the state championships. 

My fingers are going numb in my ears, so I pull them out and wipe them against my cargo pants that are already spattered with ink and mud and grease. All my clothes are dirty like these pants, my uniform too. 

I have been asking Ma to let me wear the new uniform that I got free from school this winter, but Ma keeps it on top of a shelf where I can’t reach it. She says only rich people throw clothes away when there’s still life left in them. If I show her how my brown trousers end well above my ankles, Ma will say even film stars wear ill-fitting clothes because it’s the latest fashion. 

She’s still making up things to trick me like she did when I was smaller than I’m now. She doesn’t know that every morning, Pari and Faiz laugh when they see me and tell me I look like a joss stick but one that smells of fart.
“Ma, listen, my uniform—” I say and I stop because there’s a scream from outside so loud I think it will squish the walls of our house. Runu-Didi gasps and Ma’s hand brushes against a hot pan by mistake and her face goes all sharp and jagged like bitter-gourd skin. 

I think it’s Papa trying to scare us. He’s always singing old Hindi songs in his hairy voice that rolls down the alleys of our basti like an empty LPG cylinder, waking up stray dogs and babies and making them bawl. But then the scream punches our walls again, and Ma switches off the stove and we run out of the house. 

The cold slithers up my bare feet. Shadows and voices judder across the alley. The smog combs my hair with fingers that are smoky but also damp at the same time. People shout, “What’s happening? Has something happened? Who’s screaming? Did someone scream?” Goats that their owners have dressed in old sweaters and shirts so they won’t catch a chill hide under the charpais on both sides of the alley. The lights in the hi-fi buildings near our basti blink like fireflies and then disappear. The current’s gone off. 

I don’t know where Ma and Runu-Didi are. Women wearing clinking glass bangles hold up mobile-phone torches and kerosene lanterns but their light is wishy-washy in the smog. 

Everyone around me is taller than I am, and their worried hips and elbows knock into my face as they ask each other about the screams. We can tell by now that they are coming from Drunkard Laloo’s house. 

“Something bad is going on over there,” a chacha who lives in our alley says. “Laloo’s wife was running around the basti, asking if anyone had seen her son. She was even at the rubbish ground, calling his name.” 

“That Laloo too, na, all the time beating his wife, beating his children,” a woman says. “Just you wait and see, one day his wife will also disappear. What will that useless fellow do for money then? From where will he get his hooch, haan?” 

I wonder which one of Drunkard Laloo’s sons is missing. The eldest, Bahadur, is a stutterer who is in my class. 

The earth twitches as a metro train rumbles underground somewhere near us. It will worm out of a tunnel, zoom past half-finished buildings, and climb up a bridge to an above-ground station before returning to the city because this is where the Purple Line ends. The metro station is new, and Papa was one of the people who built its sparkly walls. Now he’s making a tower so tall they have to put flashing red lights on top to warn pilots not to fly too low. 

The screams have stopped. I’m cold and my teeth are talking among themselves. Then Runu-Didi’s hand darts out of the darkness, snatches me, and drags me forward. She runs fast, as if she’s competing in a relay race and I’m the baton she’s about to pass to a teammate. 

“Stop,” I say, hitting the brakes. “Where are we going?” 

“Didn’t you hear what people were saying about Bahadur?”

“He’s lost?” 

“You don’t want to find out more?” 

Runu-Didi can’t see my face in the smog but I nod. We follow a lantern swinging from someone’s hands, but it’s not bright enough to show us the puddles where washing-up water has collected and we keep stepping into them. The water is icky and I should turn around but I also want to know what happened to Bahadur. Teachers never ask him questions in class because of his stammer. When I was in Standard Two, I tried going ka-ka-ka too, but that only got me a rap on the knuckles with a wooden ruler. Ruler beatings hurt much worse than canings.

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Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
diane92345 13 days ago
Even poor children in India like watching television detectives. Nine-year-old Jai and his best friend Pari have their first case. Their classmate, Bahadur, turns up missing from their neighborhood. And he isn’t the only missing child. They investigate in the slums of India as the Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. It is interesting to read about a culture that is rarely depicted in books or films. In the afterword, the author states that “as many as 180 children are said to go missing in India each day.” Each day! Why isn’t something done? Are they victims of a gang of serial killers? Are they being harvested for their organs? Or are they now slaves in a faraway land? The underlying issue here overwhelms my thoughts on the book. However, the book is an eye-opener. It even addresses the Muslim Hindu racism currently being felt in India and Pakistan. My only complaint was that the ending was not quite as closed loop as I normally like. But for the intriguing setting, the book receives 4 stars from me! Note there is a glossary of the Indian words at the end that would have useful while reading the book. Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
paigereadsthepage 20 days ago
I really enjoyed the atmosphere created. The environment reveals a distinct separation of classes and the varied lives according to social status and monetary value. Police negligence, religious violence, and educational values are exposed through this fictional tale. The language was great, and I enjoyed the story being told through the eyes of nine-year-old Jai. Quote-“The man scratches at his feathery beard. “Kids around here disappear all the time,” he says. “One day they’ll have too much glue and decide to try their luck somewhere else. Another day they’ll get hit by a rubbish truck and end up in a hospital. Some other morning, they’ll be picked up by the police and sent to a juvenile home. We don’t make a fuss about anybody vanishing.”” The story itself became repetitive. After one child disappeared, Jai and Pari investigated and played detective, and I was into it. However, then the same thing just kept happening. Another would disappear, Jai and Pari would investigate, turn up empty handed and go home, then another disappear, etc. So, the progress wasn’t as engaging as I would have preferred. For me, the most powerful chapters were “This Story Will Save Your Life” which were mostly stories of the djinns and other beliefs regarding wandering children. My favorite scene was when Jai and Pari went to the railway station. Because of the title and blurb, I have to admit that I thought a big portion of this novel would take place around the railway. However, there was only one big scene there in the beginning. I wasn’t too pleased with the ending, but I respect the underlying messages delivered to the reader through that conclusion. I think the themes embedded in this story are significantly valuable. However, the progression of the story was uniform. Overall, I liked the story because of the important leitmotifs. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this copy. Opinions are my own.
Michelle Magee 3 days ago
Life in Indian slum through the eyes of its children. Paints an unforgettable vivid living portrait.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Supposedly a book about children in the basti (slums) trying to find out what happened to their missing friend, it really is more of a stream-of-consciousness about the setting and thoughts of the inhabitants. I kept wanting the book to get better. The writing style is so full of non-English words and sing-song prose that it is a bit hard to keep up. Some parts are beautifully written, but then those parts are few and far between. Overall I was wishing for more, and I only finished in order to give a full review. If you want to read a book about social injustice in India, by all means take the time to read. However, I was able to glean the gist of the topic after the first few chapters, and I was left wanting a better resolution.
Anonymous 15 days ago
I know the conditions in India are terrible but this book was too depressing and and gave no hope for the future. While it may have realistic, I did not like it.