There are perfect stories, and there are purrfect stories. The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy falls is the latter and how! Peppered with beautiful illustrations by Prabha Mallya, The Wildings is a modern-day fable where the good triumphs the evil in the end with some cat-networking and a simple but savage twist.
If at first glance you think this is a book meant only for kids, think again! If you let it pass by then, you would be missing out on a fantastic novel, rare gem in our times. Suppose still, Harry Potter was meant for kids too, but you believed in it and so will you in The Wildings!
Roy takes us on a fantastic journey through the lives of a cat-clan living in Delhi’s oldest locality’s Nizamuddin, giving us glimpses of their lives through many whiskers-twitching, stretching & snarling, and more. They live in perfect harmony, creeping through the back-alleys of the locality, away from the eyes of stray dogs and shielded from the preying claws of the cheels. These cats live a so-called content life what with an abundance of rats and bandicoots for them to dig their paws into and relish. There is the beautiful, ever-graceful yet ferocious Beraal, a proud young queen, Katar the clan leader, Hulo the scar-faced tom, Miao the blue-eyed Siamese cat who is the eldest of the clan and almost Oracle-like, Qawwali, the quintessential cat living around the Nizamuddin dargah.
However, their sanctuary is under threat, or so they think when a sender makes an appearance. Now cats have always been the mysterious beings. They have their way with the world, trotting on soft yet swift paws, living life to the fullest and never having to wag their tales at someone just like their canine counterparts swear by. So when Roy introduces the concept of a social network amongst cats and a powerful one at that, you won’t know what hit you. Yup, the idea is so fantastic that it comes as no surprise the billis of Nizamuddin are left in a tizzy! A sender amongst cats is someone who can travel miles and miles telepathically, without actually having to step out of their dwelling space. They can tune-in and tune-out of other’s (animals only) conversations as well as thoughts too.
Beraal is the first one to sense a sender amongst them. She, along with other members of the clan, thinks it’s best to silence the sender forever. But her hunt for the sender brings her face-to-face with a tiny orange fur ball kitten who is unaware of her powers as a sender. While the older feline pities the little one, she knows she must make the kill. However, when Mara spots Beraal, she is delighted much to the discomfiture of the older feline who was assigned to kill the kitten.
Unlike the Wildings, Mara loves being inside; orphaned when her eyes were barely opened, she misses her mother’s warmth but feels secure in the bigfeet’s home who have adopted her as their pet. Having adapted comfortably, Mara lives to gorge on fresh milk in her bowl, fish and other goodies served by her owner. While she has toys to play with, she misses being around other cats. Unknown to her, it is her fate that brings the little kitten to Nizamuddin as a sender and powerful one at that, when the Wildings really need one!
Eventually, Beraal befriends Mara and promises to teach Mara the delicate nuances of controlling her ‘sending’ without disturbing the neighbourhood. Her teachings help Mara travel far and wide into the cage of a might royal Bengal tiger – Ozymandious. She soon forges a friendship with the tiger family.
While Mara’s story is fascinating, there is a lot more going on around Nizamuddin, especially within the dark confines of the shuttered house. The shuttered house is off limits for Wildings venturing out on their own. The house reeks of death. There is a peculiar feeling about the house which sucks the very life out of the cats, and this only means one thing – grave danger. While the Wildings try hard and steer clear from this wild place, they can sense there is a war brewing.
Life is different inside the shuttered house. The dilapidated house, owned by an ailing old man shelters cats who have never seen the light of day. Some of them were born inside while came seeking shelter, never ventured into the outside world. So while they are cats just like the Wildings, something within them twisted to the dark side a long time ago.
Here is where one can see the difference between cute-cuddly furry cats and the ones whose only aim is to kill. It is the powerful animal instinct that comes into play here - The Wildings vs the Ferals (cats from the shuttered house). While one may question that every animal has an inclination to kill, there is a difference. With the Wildings, they kill when required else they maintain a truce amongst other creatures they live with. On the other hand, the Ferals have never lived amongst other beings and think of everything alive as ‘meat’. Hence, they kill because they can.
Finally, a war breaks loose with Datura leading the Ferals and Katar and Beraal leading the Wildings. Miao, Dastaan, and Hulo everyone plays their part. Unfortunately, many lives are lost, and the Wildings have almost given up, but the little orange kitten saves the day when she manages to get Ozymandious – the great royal Bengal tiger to Nizamuddin.
P.S: There is more to Mara in the book from what I have revealed here. I don’t want to ruin the delicious morsels so that you can read and relish them at leisure. It is definitely a book you can curl up or snuggle with, under your blanket in this chilly yet romantic climate!
And of course, I am in love with Beraal. Beautiful name for a cute cat!
Bookworm’s rating: 4/5 bookworms
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