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[W] The Wildings – a tale about the cats of Nizamuddin #AtoZ | Book Review |

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Someone had mentioned this book for a read, more than once. I checked out the book on Goodreads and was hooked by the premise thereafter. A world of stray cats where they speak and make decisions; even get into a world war III – I just had to pick this one up.

Title: The Wildings

Author:ย  Nilanjana Roy

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

Publication: Aleph Book Company

Nilanjana Roy is a New Delhi based journalist, critic and a writer. She has held the post of Chief editor for Westland/Tranquebar and worked on several literary magazines too. The Wildings is her first book and was published by Aleph Book Co in 2012 and it won the Shakti Bhat First Book Award. The sequel to this book is titled A Hundred Names of Darkness was published in 2013.



Welcome to the mysterious world of the stray cats of Nizamuddin, an old colony of New Delhi that is full of history and cultural charm. The Wildings rule here while the big feet (humans) are the bumbling idiots who know nothing of the ways of life. There are a number of bands of cats, each heralded by a leader who maintains his/her control of the area with a set of rules. The cats communicate with other felines by way of telepathic linking and in this way are aware of whats happening in the world around them.

Besides the cats, we have cheels, dogs, sparrow, squirrels, parrots, mongoose, babblers and more that co-exist peacefully in the generous shade of the Nizamuddin Dargah. Each species of animals has their own set of issues which are sorted amongst themselves amicably.

One day the peace of the colony is broken by the loud “sendings” of a cat that seems to be broadcasting on all channels and loudly, without a care in the world. Alarmed, the clan elder Miao assembles her troupe to discuss this anomaly. Miao is a wise Siamese, Katar is a ferocious warrior and loyal friend, Hulo is a great fighter, Beraal is the gorgeous queen with deadly fighting skills and then there is Southpaw the kitten who is very green around his ears and paws and whiskers.

“So you received it too,” she said slowly. Hulo flicked his unkept black tail lightly in assent. “I’ll bet every tom and queen in Nizamuddin is looking for whoever that was – my whiskers are still trembling.” – The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

Beraal is chosen to investigate this intruder and find out everything about it. Much to her astonishment, the sender turns out to be a young, untrained kitten who is in fact an “inside” cat. Her report is met with incredulity by the clan who cannot fathom how a kitten has learnt sending since she would need to be trained first by another powerful sender. The vote is (almost) unanimously cast to kill her before she disrupts their lives.

But when Beraal meets the kitten face to face, something about her innocence triggers a feeling of affection in her. She decides to befriend and train this little feline to the best of her abilities and prevent her from being a danger to all. Beraal has to use her powers of persuasion and even gets into a face off with Katar to save the young kitten from extinction.

Unaware of the politics at play over her existence, the little orange ball of fluff spends her day trying to teach her humans to play with her, feed her and generally entertain her as need be. She is most disgruntled to learn that they are too foolish to know any better and mostly misinterpret all her commands. Oh by the way, they have named her Mara.

Mara has no control over her sendings and seems to link up even in her dreams; that was most embarrassing and the clan couldnt wait for her to wake up to give her an earful. It’s not just the cats, but other species of animals and birds that can hear her too.

“I am just me,’ Mara stammered back, “Just a Mara.”

“You are a kitten? Not even a cub, a common KITTEN? And you dare consort with tigers, Justamara? You’re either very brave. Or very foolish. Or…..very, very insolent.” – The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

One day, by accident, Mara projects herself in front of a huge tiger in the Sunder Nagar zoo. The tiger is taken aback at the sight of a little kitten hovering in front of him and tries to swipe it off. It takes a while for Mara to explain things to him and gradually they become friends.

Meanwhile Southpaw befriends Mara as she too is a kitten like him. Finally he has someone of his own age around him to play and talk to. Mara finds it very puzzling that the “outside” cats don’t like to live in the warm cosy and safe human homes where they will be fed regularly and above all loved unconditionally. She tries her hand at freedom and hates it enough to find her way back.

Nizamuddin Wildings seem to have recovered from the “threat” in their midst and a soft drape of peace had barely ensconced them all when a new problem cropped up. An old man living in a dilapidated house dies and other big feet arrive there to take care of his last rites, etc. The house has a band of feral and savage cats which havent seen daylight for years. Now that their human is gone, they need to find food for themselves.

“Madam?’, he called. “What is the one thing that you mentioned my clan could do?” The mongoose turned, and her red eyes bore into his hopeful brown ones. “They could die well,” she said softly. – The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

These cats are driven half mad by living in the dank and dark house for years. When they do come out, they threaten the lives of all other creatures of Nizamuddin. The colony of Wildings gather other cats, cajole some other species and gang up to fight the ferals.

It’s a bloody battle which seems to be swinging one way only. Mara comes up with a brilliant solution to save them all but it’s at a great cost.

What happens next, you either pick up the book to read or acquire some feline whiskers to hear the tale from the Nizamuddin Wildings and either ways I swear you will look differently at cats from then on ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lasting Impression on me:

Where do I even begin for this is one book that made me feel horrible about being a human. How I longed to be a gracious feline with fine whiskers to gambol in the bylanes of Nizamuddin and hear cat tales of yore.

Before we go any further, let me also clarify that this is not a book for children but adults who refuse to grow up; so lets classify it as Young Adults and be satisfied with that for the rich imaginative world laid bare by Ms Roy is simply delightful. After finishing this book, I promptly messaged her on twitter and came to know there is a sequel – you cannot imagine my joy at that.

All the animals in the book have a human voice; rather the humans have no voice. Each animal had trademark characteristics that define its personality and a quirky name to go with it. Southpaw is a curious kitten who doesn’t get it that curiosity killed the cat.

The wild babblers, commonly called seven sisters as they move in a bunch of seven at a time, are quite aptly named after the seven musical notes – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni. The gang leader of the feral cats is called Datura while his accomplices are Aconite, Ratsbane, Hemlock, etc. Doginder is the adorable and very friendly stray dog while Aao and Jao are a pair of squirrels.

“Shall we join them?” said Mara. “Oh, I am not welcome,” said Tantara. “Her royal highness doesn’t think tigers should consort with common langurs. You go join them if you want to.” – The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

I loved how the author has tried to imagine the cats would talk and translated that perfectly in this book, making me believe that they can talk. The kittens think in terms of wanting their mother, wanting to be warm and fed and loved. The adult cats worry about the clan, finding food and looking after their numbers. They also take the fledging under their wings and train them to hunt and sustain themselves.

Then there is the camaraderie between the species and how they look out for each other; from listening to each others problems to giving advice to even protecting the other – its incredible thing to note the relationships formed here. The key-note in the book is about “Live and let Live”.

The backdrop of Nizamuddin is aptly chosen as it has older buildings, alleyways and labyrinths to house the strays and the folk lores.

I loved the humour injected in several scenarios in the book which had me laughing and crying at the same time. I think I became convinced that cats are far more interesting and superior than humans, after reading this book.

Then there are the gorgeous illustrations by Prabha Malaya that will take your breath away. I could see each and every creature is vivid details not just in the words on the pages but in the sketches too.

My rating:

I wish I could give it more than 5***** as this book is just unbelievably amazing to read and will make you yearn to either be a cat or adopt a cat ๐Ÿ˜‰

*This post contains an affiliate link and if you purchase through it, I get to earn a small referral fee*

Are you a cat lover? Would you read this book? Any good reccos of a Cat story that I might have missed?


I am on a no-book-buying pact as I am pretty much broke; not to mention that I am running out of space as well!! But incase anyone wants to trade their books or send me gifts, please do check out my Wishlist on Amazon & Want to read on Goodreads.

I am still racking my brains for [X] – any ideas folks?

For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.

The A to Z Challenge isย created by ย Arlee Bird ofย Tossing it Out
and co-hosted by

Alex J. Cavanaugh ofย Alex J. Cavanaugh

Jeremy Hawkinsย ofย Hollywood Nuts

Heather M. Gardnerย of ย The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Zalka Csenge Virรกg ofย The Multicolored Diary

John Holtonย ofย The Sound of One Hand Typing

J Lenni Dorner of ย Blog of J. Lenni Dorner

Some of my previousย  posts you might be interested in catching up on

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41 thoughts on “[W] The Wildings – a tale about the cats of Nizamuddin #AtoZ | Book Review |

    1. Phew!! After Twilight post, I was wondering if you would be back ๐Ÿ˜‰ Do read this one for the world it brings forth is just superb.

  1. Thank you for adding to the charms of Delhi with this post Shalini. First Kalpana with her photos and now you with this book! Delhi is sending strong signals via this A to Z:)
    This book seems the kind of read I’d like to take with me holiday.
    ‘I’m just me.’ loving Mara already.
    V is for Vintage

    1. Yes Arti- Kalpanaa’s posts are superb about sadi Dilli – I am digging them a lot too. I hope you do get to read this book – its amazing and so is the sequel. I am setting it up for a re-read soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. If Delhi is sending you strong signal Arti then you must visit and thank you for your compliments. I am very pleased to have discovered your lovely blog through the A to Z Challenge.

  2. This has been on my TBR list for a while now. I just wish I had more time to read since there are so many wonderful books to read. BTW I have already downloaded onto my kindle your recommendation from yesterday. But this book I want to hold in my hands because it is so beautiful.

    1. Oh yay for Vinyl Cafe!!! Do tell me how you liked it Kalpanaa. As for this one, yes its truly beautiful and you will flip over the illustrations just as I have! They have been done incredibly well!..

    1. The illustrations inside are ven more gorgeous Ramya and the perspective is just amazing! The cat voices are so human and real in this book – I truly wonder if Ms Roy is a witch herself who can talk to cats ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. It’s a story told by the animals and with such graphic description n emotions, that I definitely wished to be a cat in my next life ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. You dont need to be a cat person to read this one -it will amaze you Soumya; I am looking forward to your review to this.

  3. Wanna shout for joy – this is among my most loved novels. Fantasy world of cats set in Nizamuddin – whats not to like. ” think I became convinced that cats are far more interesting and superior than humans, after reading this book.” – So true.

    Also, great that you mentioned the illustrator ๐Ÿ™‚

    I had lent this book to my manager and she never returned it ๐Ÿ™
    Lesson learnt – never exchange books with your manager!

    Waiting at Bikaner House, Delhi

    1. Oh yeah! I loved the interaction of the tigers with Mara- that was so so funny! And Kirii the mongoose is so so deadly and cold – brrrrr!!!
      I hated that Miao dies – I wept so much while reading that part.
      Kudos to the writer for bringing alive such a fantastic world to us.
      Sorry to hear about your book loss- god I hate lending my books; I get very anxious after that!!!

    2. Ha ha…if I had a dollar for every good book I have lost to some dumb colleague or friend….

  4. Even though I vowed I did not need to add another book to my currently near-toppling to-be-read pile, my resistance is futile in this case. Your review is compelling, and I can’t wait to read this.

    1. Oh thats wonderful to hear Deborah; check out its reviews on Goodreads if you need any further convincing for this book and its sequel are gems to have in your bookshelves! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Sounds like an interesting read, though I am not a cat person and it’s been ages since I read a story about animals. Ah, it was Animal Farm that I had re-read a couple of years ago. Will check this one out.

    1. This one is unlike any animal story that I have read; the brilliant part is that its written by an Indian author with an Indian backdrop – it surpasses the imagination levels on all accounts. I hope you do get to read it – you will so wanna be a cat after this ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Nice review. I remember reading this book and loving the dark tone, and outside in look at humans and a city like Delhi. And of course the illustrations.

  7. When author is able to convince a reader that cat life is much superior to human life, then the book definitely should not be missed. I loved the description of Mara when she wants humans to play with her and feel humans are too foolish to understand her commands. I will check it out for sure.

  8. Dropping in on the AtoZ Road Trip. Not buying books for you is like me not buying fabric for quilting. Very hard to resist lol Nice to read your post and as a cat lover I’ll be on the lookout for this one ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks for dropping by Stephanie; reminds me I must get back to it too ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hope you do get to read this book for its simply amazing as it explores the world of cats and their mystique via cultural/folk references.

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