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Excerpt from Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara X
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2020, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

I LOOK AT OUR HOUSE WITH—

—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? 

or 
Are Pigeons Terrorists Trained by Pakistan? 
or 
Is a Bull this Varanasi Sari Shop's Best Customer? 
or 
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.

Excerpted from Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara. Copyright © 2020 by Deepa Anappara. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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