One of the books that I completed recently is that of ‘Djinn Patrol on the Purple Lines’ by Deepa Anappara. Although the story is about missing children, it is presented through the eyes of Jai, Pari and Bahadur who are children themselves but full of grit and determination to find the missing children. In attempting to mimic the detective shows they watch on TV, such as that of Crime Patrol; they try to device methods to find out their friends. One of them attributes this to djinns whereas another thinks these kids have run away.
The way the book is written, it does not feel like a sordid tale of missing children. It feels like a detective account and it is not until the end when Jai loses his own sister and has not fully understood what happened, that the story becomes real and shows the helplessness and victimization of children. However, the story shows the resilience of children especially that of Jai in trying to adjust to the situation.
Showing the lives of children, their longings, desires, mischiefs, sorrows, Deepa Anappara has done a good job of trying to capture life as it is amidst poverty, communal tensions and police apathy; with the curious eyes of children and their imaginations running wild and a harsh reality of the vulnerability of children.
The story seems to be one where children in a sense try to seek for justice in the way they know how. However, what kind of a just society allows boys to rate girls or for having to pay in order to go to toilet? What kind of society would shift the blame of these missing children to carelessness of parents to that of the minority community? The story reveals how there are bonds of friendship among children formed across the community lines but also how justice is not an easy matter.
It reveals once again that poverty, being a child who do not fit the normative definitions of childhood, being part of a society that degrades girls; all go to show the complexities of malice in one’s society. There are multiple layers and differences amongst people where those who are at the center of these intersecting lines have no means to secure justice. The process of othering becomes manifest when a community seeks to make sense of a grave harm done to the community itself.
Another question that can be asked is what does justice mean when these families are no longer able to reunite with their children? The story brings to one’s attention the multiple ways in which one is forced to live with injustices meted out in one’s everyday lives. Whether through deliberate ways or through hidden cues, a vast majority of people have to face injustice and the response to that is not always a clear-cut answer. As one struggles to survive each day, the privileged continue to have a better chance of addressing their issues.
By Remya Ann Mathew
Remya Ann Mathew is a PhD scholar in the Department of Sociology, University of Delhi. Her research focuses on the internet usage among children.