-Riya Nagendra, I Year B.A. English
Anybody who’s interacted with cats probably knows that the life one sees them lead is a very small part of the life they actually do lead. When I was younger, I had fantastic plans to write a graphic novel about the alternate life of my cat, who I felt was obviously the head of an international secret service. It was around this time that my parents gave me The Wildings for my birthday, with the writing inside, “We know you thought of such a story first, but someone beat you to it. Anyway, enjoy the book!” I was excited – an adventure story based entirely around the secret lives of cats – a dream come true for any cat lover!
Nilanjana Roy’s debut novel certainly didn’t disappoint. Set in Nizamuddin, where the author herself lives, it follows the story of a clan of cats, whose leisurely, very regular (cat-wise) lives of hunting and grooming and napping is interrupted by the arrival of a tiny orange kitten with a very, very loud voice. This terrified furball, a stranger to the clan, is a sender – a cat with the ability to cross acres and acres of land and communicate with her whiskers.
The clan is initially unsure of what they should do, for a sender is a powerful ally, but also a dangerous enemy. Under the guidance of the clan leader, Miao and with the help of the timeless justice system of cats – fighting – to settle things among themselves, they come to a decision. The story revolves around the difficulties of befriending and teaching Mara, the confused little sender who has been adopted by humans (or Bigfeet), how to use and control her powers; as well as how the clan faces the new threat of the feral cats from the Shuttered House – who could, very easily, destroy the peace and the clan’s carefully cultivated relationship with the Bigfeet.
Roy’s representation of the balance between all the creatures, each with their little idiosyncrasies, kindles in the reader a desire to roam the lanes of Nizamuddin and observe them firsthand, while her writing satiates this desire, as she takes you through the winding lanes of the neighbourhood with the clan, and allows you to soar the skies with the cheels.
This novel is filled with hilarious and likeable characters (feline and others), an interesting story and brilliant writing, which, accompanied by the Prabha Mallya’s illustrations, make for a perfect read, especially with a hot cup of tea and (if you can manage it) a contented cat on your lap.