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In the Garden of the Djinn

In The Garden of the Djinn, Juno goes in search of her missing grandfather, Dadu, and the princess of Aleya. The Aleyans are living under a curse, and only Juno can help them. Here is how I first heard about the Aleyans, Niyati and Juno’s other friends – it was Juno herself who told me!

Juno and I first met some four and a half years ago, and became instant friends so that it wasn’t long before we were curled up on the sofa, chatting, as good friends often do. The afternoon passed swiftly, and as the sun set over Mumbai, we fell into a companionable silence.

Then, ‘Do you know Niyati, have you ever met her?’ asked Juno.

‘No, who is she?’ I replied, intrigued.

Juno told me. ‘Niyati is my friend,’ she said. ‘She has long, black hair and carries a silver clutch bag. She also wears the prettiest clothes sometimes, which swirl and flow around her like a rainbow-coloured mist. She knows everything, and can fight even the strongest monsters. She visits me often – she climbs in through the window sometimes – especially when I am bored and tired of homework…’

‘Could I meet her?’ I asked.

Juno shook her head. ‘No, I don’t think so. Niyati doesn’t like meeting people. She won’t meet you.’

‘Oh!’ I sat back, nonplussed. ‘Well,’ I said recovering, ‘then maybe you can tell me a little more about her?’

Juno nodded. Yes, that she could do. So we settled back more deeply into the sofa, and Juno told me all about Niyati and the magical, wonderful world, called Aleya, that she came from. I listened, entranced.

‘Will you write about her?’ asked Juno.

‘I could, I most definitely could…’ I replied slowly.

‘And will I be in your book?’

‘Of course! You will be!’

‘So that is settled then,’ said Juno, a pleased glint in her eye. ‘You will write a book with me and Niyati in it.’

I nodded meekly, and promised.

‘I will tell Niyati too,’ she added solemnly, and the matter being settled, she wished me good night and went off to bed.

Juno’s stories of Niyati stayed in my head, and slowly I began writing. I wrote one chapter at a time, sending each chapter to Juno to read as it was completed, and at the end of one year, in time for Juno’s tenth birthday, it was written, The Garden of the Djinn, a book with both Juno and Niyati in it, just as Juno had wanted.

Juno is older now, and though she and I don’t meet that often these days, we are still friends. Niyati and the other Aleyans are happy once more, and quite busy with their lives, though Niyati still finds time to visit Juno every now and then. As for me, I am glad I could be part of this grand adventure, even if only in the capacity of annalist, and honoured that Juno picked me to write about it.