All Quiet in Vikaspuri by Sarnath Banerjee
“Isn’t it heartbreaking when people at the margins still believe in the legal system?”
- 4 out of 5 Stars
- Paperback 152 pages
- Published 2015 by Harper Collins
- Original Title All Quiet in Vikaspuri
- ISBN9351775747 (ISBN13: 9789351775744)
- Edition Language English
From the publisher, “Scintillating graphic fiction from the master of the genre A Homeric tale of a man’s journey to the centre of the earth in search of the mythical river Saraswati, this graphic novel is set against the fictitious yet ever-so-real Water Wars of Delhi. It is a dystopian landscape where neighborhoods fight brutal battles against each other and even victory must end in defeat.”
“Twitter doesn’t bring revolution, hunger does.”All Quiet in Vikaspuri by Sarnath Banerjee
Banerjee uses a climate-centric approach to tell a story blending dystopic ecological narrative with a graphic novel format. The story follows Girish, a plumber who has been displaced by the privatization of Bharat Copper Limited (a thinly-veiled stand-in for Hindustan Copper Limited). Girish seeks work all throughout his hometown, though there is none to be found. He soon meets a mysterious businessman. This businessman tells Girish that he “…funds expeditions into the Earth’s core in the hope that one day we will discover the mother of all rivers, the mythical Saraswati.” Girish is aided by a water diviner as he sets out on an epic quest to find the digging spot for the river, earning the nickname “Psychic Plumber” from the media. Though feeling more than a little doubtful, Girish starts digging.
During his time underground Girish encounters many subterranean dwellers. All of which have in common the crime of wasting water in one way or another. These dwellers play a pivotal role in the developing plot and denouement. While Girish is underground, a water war breaks out on the surface. It is led by a disaffected businessman Rastogi who is destroying the city, the people, and the land to increase real-estate prices.
There are two levels of this novel. The first surface level is of a “cli-fi” story about the devastation brought on by water wastage in Delhi within the backdrop of Modern India. It is an epic tale of a man tasked with the impossible and the people he meets along the way. However, I think the more profound story that Banerjee tells so well is one of slow destruction and degredation of the environment for financial gain. Whether it is of one’s city, home, climate or culture, it is all for a financial increase to stockholder prices. Banerjee reflects on that often throughout the story through small details or asides.
Graphically, this story isn’t spectacular. Each of the pages is drawn simply and with a limited palette. This is absolutely fine within the context of the story. It explains everything it needs to explain.
I think that if I had more of an understanding of Indian culture and heritage I would be able to appreciate and understand some of the references and language used in the book. However, even from a complete outsider standpoint I really enjoyed it. It is well done and should be read. Plus it has sparked a thorough interest in the burgeoning graphic novel scene in India for me. I look forward to reading more from this author.