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: 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 😉
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.
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 😉
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Are you a cat lover? Would you read this book? Any good reccos of a Cat story that I might have missed?
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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 is created by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out
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Some of my previous posts you might be interested in catching up on
Passionate about everything design, I am in love with photography, travel and baking. My writing journey was initiated with my letter writing hobby as a child and has metamorphosised into serious blogging. I indulge with reading fantasy fiction, day dreaming and sipping good wine.