Streets of Mumbai are littered with makeshift huts. Everytime they are erased few days later the herd is back to build new ones. This is the usual scenario. This is an unending rigamarole. I have been a witness to this unchangeable element of the city. Sometimes cursed the same and sometimes I have imagined how the life on the streets is really like. But never have I come close to understanding the mindset of the street and slum dwellers as well as author Deepa Annapara does in the book Djinn Patrol on the purple line. This book is shortlisted for The JCB
Prize for Literature 2020.The book initiates by taking us through the life of ragpickers and how a Djinn protects them and helps them out. Soon we are brought to the basti of Jai that is an abode of the labour class. Here Jai and his friends face life everyday – drunkard neighbors, rowdy teenagers, unhealthy lifestyle, the unending queues for water and toilets, the gossiping aunties, and what not. While these scenes fill in the backdrop, there is a series of mysterious disappearances of kids from this basti. Who is behind these kidnappings? Will these kids ever come back, forms the rest of the storyThe story throws light on yet unlit alleys prominently neglected in the hustle of the metropolitan cities. The book presents the life of slum dwellers who are often considered insignificant.This book was all feels for me. It was immersive. It took me to the basti of Jai and amongst the ragpickers of Mental. It never once dwindled in putting forth the narrative from a child’s perspective. There was innocence infused with satire, hatred, and layered with communal tensions. It broke my heart and it made me smile at the tiny sleuths – Pari, Faiz and Jai. It almost felt like revisiting Slumdog Millionaire, 99 Nights in Logar, Shantaram, and all the typical Indian true crime TV shows. I could vividly imagine the tiny lanes of Dharavi or the bastis near the railways stations.This book is character driven and brings forth the gruesome reality that’s divided by a plush Golden gate society and Jai’s basti. It culminates giving us bitter taste of fateful slum life, their sacrifice and their acceptance.Overall, it packs a punch with its dexterous narration, plot and unimpeachable characters.Last word – It sizes up the life in shanties very well. It is highly steeped in experience and shows us the social disparity that exists. And it is an unputdownable read.


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