13 June, 2021

Jai And His Band Of Sleuths

A sharply-styled debut pursues a mystery in a smoggy slum, carried along on small feet

Jai And His Band Of Sleuths

The influences seep up as you read—Slumdog Millionaire of course, with its toilet lines, Kalpana Swaminathan’s chilling Greenlight and the real-life Moninder Singh Pandher’s murder house. Deepa Anappara’s Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line opens in the familiar territory of a basti. There, the mothers work in upper-class houses while the fathers scrape together a living. The story opens in the house of Jai and his Runu Di in a city which one puts down as Delhi because of the smog. They have a television on which Jai gets to hear exciting news like the disappearance of the police commissioner’s cat. He goes to a government school with his friend Pari and Faiz but his mind is on anything but studies.

Then, children start to vanish in ones and twos, starting with a boy called Bahadur. It is a fact that murders and disappearances occur in Indian slums where there are eyes in every corner and where gangs proliferate. Jai fancies himself as a detective and he organises his two friends in an attempt to find Bahadur when the...

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