Author: Sarnath Banerjee
Illustrator: Sarnath Banerjee
Published: 2015 by HarperCollins
No. of Pages: 152
Subthemes: Water crisis in Delhi, Dystopia, transformation from pre-liberalisation to post-liberalization era
Timeline: There’s no clear timeline but there’s an allusion to pre-liberalisation to the post-liberalization era. The timelines thus are largely imaginary and the most of it is set in a dystopian future.
A Kafkaesque satire on Delhi’s water crisis- All Quiet in Vikaspuri- speaks of a not so distant Delhi parched of the ever-essential, water. Commenting on the various though-processes which have led to such a crisis, the story starts with Kafkaesque panels set in the regional passport office of the Bhikaji Cama Place, Delhi. Much like a panacea or a magic potion, privatization is sought as the solution to all the woes of waiting in a queue for hours by the middle class. The demand is a satirical take on the middle class, especially from the pre-liberalisation era when privatization became a buzz-word. To highlight the damage done by mindless privatization, this part of the story is juxtaposed to the narration about Bharat Copper Limited in Tambapur.
Pace to the humorous panels in the beginning, the panels which introduce one to Tambapur, glimmer with an honest narration of a happy town. The wrath of privatization is then covered through the changes in Tambapur and through the eyes of a plumber, which then becomes the protagonist of the story, Girish.
Much of the story then is covered through Girish, the psychic plumber who is then recruited by Rastogi for an expedition to find the mythical river, Saraswati. The story of the water wars, covers both, the oblivion and the tendency to seek short-term solutions. In his morbid obsession to find Saraswati, Girish comes across various characters who were either contributors to Delhi’s water woes or the victims of it. Humorously scattered in a network of tunnels inside what the narration terms as middle earth, the characters are satires on the urban middle-class— an ex-Delhi-Jal-Board employee; a water tanker mafia; a melancholic retired colonel; an ex-MCD official; wife of a foreign ambassador posted in Delhi.
What follows at the backdrop of such narration replete with satires and visual metaphors are the water wars of Delhi and after an introduction to the real problem of what the author calls short-termism. A third-world approach to seek quick solutions to grave issues is then uncovered through cleverly drawn panels, commenting on the water wars in Delhi.
The final part converges various layers of narration into a war bigger than all the water wars, the war for the mythical Saraswati! A superhero with a camera is also seen as a satire on journalism, and various stories are shown through brilliant satire panels inspired by iconic Hollywood movie titles. All the narration plays out brilliantly, while as sort of a grander satire, a top MNC employee, Varun Bhalla, watches these wars from his home in Gurgaon.
A Kafkaesque symbolism of never-ending queues is what is carried forward right from the first panel. Later this transforms into the tunnel which, Girish-the psychic plumber, is digging throughout the story. The symbolism is not only shown in forms of tunnels, but also every time we see a structure in the story, a building, a problem, or a war. Overall the graphic-based narrative ekes out the frantic mood of the characters, and their tendency to seek short-term solutions.