Review: The Wildings

Author Nilanjana Roy
Title: The Wildings
Author: Nilanjana Roy
The book's website
Published: 2012 by Aleph Book Company
Pages: 310
Price: Rs. 595
My Rating: 5/5! 

As perplexing as it may seem to be, this book is quite some surprise! I wasn't sure about it when it was up for review at, what with the scary cat on the cover and the premise of the book being cats and their lives in Nizamuddin, Delhi, from the perspective of cats themselves! Lion King types, just minus the lions. However, I'm so glad I asked for it. This book is totally worth your time. I loved every bit of it!

Goodreads blurb!
A small band of cats lives in the labyrinthine alleys and ruins of Nizamuddin, an old neighbourhood in Delhi. Miao, the clan elder, a wise, grave Siamese; Katar, a cat loved by his followers and feared by his enemies; Hulo, the great warrior tom; Beraal, the beautiful queen, swift and deadly when challenged; Southpaw, the kitten whose curiosity can always be counted on to get him into trouble… Unfettered and wild, these and the other members of the tribe fear no one, go where they will, and do as they please. Until, one day, a terrified orange-coloured kitten with monsoon green eyes and remarkable powers, lands in their midst—setting off a series of extraordinary events that will change their world forever.

My thoughts!
The Wildings is the kind of book I hadn't read in a long time. Based on the lives of a small band of cats living in Nizamuddin, among humans whom they call 'Bigfeet' (cute, no? ;) ), this is a tale spun around creatures, stray and otherwise, whom we mostly don't give a passing thought to. Really, what I could think about later, after reading this book was, 'Are we really so engrossed in our lives that we don't even notice these animals?'

It's quite a simple story. There are these wildings, stray cats who love their territory in Nizamuddin, then there are the dargah cats, the ones from the canal, and the most dangerous of all, the ferals in the Shuttered House! The wildings are living their routine lives, when they have a newcomer with the powers of a Sender. Beraal, the queen cat with amazing fighting ability, is sent to find and kill the intruder. But she finds a tiny orange kitten rescued by some Bigfeet, living in their home and unaware of its powers or how to use them! Beraal is charmed by Mara and she decides that she'd train her. Other cats reluctantly agree. I have to say, I loved all characters, they're so well defined! I mean, you'd think how one can define a cat, but here is an author who seems to know cats inside out! And she made them seem so interesting. I never noticed cats (or any animal, for that matter, being wary of them all) and now I don't think I'll ever be able to ignore them anymore. 

Nice cover! ;)

That's where the second best part comes in, the descriptions!!! As you read the book, you're thinking from a cat's perspective and it is quite fascinating. The way they wash themselves, focused on keeping themselves clean, the way they bring up their litter, the way they attack or make loving gestures, the way they hunt, the way they live, basically. It's fascinating. (Oh, I've said that already! Know what I mean?). As I read through, I loved the Nizamuddin cats more and more, especially young Southpaw, an orphan kitten being taken care of by Miao, Hulo and the older cats, with a tail for trouble. The way he's been described, his antics and the way he talks, I grew to love this fictional cat! Then there's the Sender, Mara, with an innocent heart of gold. I really liked the parts where the kitten goes and travels out through her powers, over to the zoo where she makes friends with a pair of tigers and their cub, Rudra. That was something cute, innocent and very child-like, a perspective into the story I really enjoyed. When Rudra gets a new playmate and realizes that he could be hurtful to Mara and his langur friend Tantara, there's a heart breaking moment when Mara realizes he's asking to bring their friendship to a pause. 

Which leads to the next best part about this book. It gives you a lot to think about and is related to the way humans think, too. Rudra is of a different species, and so is Tantara and Mara and she can't understand why it has to be a deterrent in their friendship. Just like humans, like we create classes and categories. There are a few lines and paras I jotted down, just because of their similarity to human life and the philosophical angle, if you look at it that way. 

'In her experience, it was never the bulk of the cat that counted or even the speed of the paw, the sharpness of the claw, as much as it was the ability to conquer one's fears.'

'Some animals are rogues. We don't know why that happens, but its'a bad thing when it does. Those creatures are born with something broken, inside them. If you ever link with their minds, you'll smell it; madness and evil have their own stench, like rotting flesh, and it's best to stay away from the stink'.

'You ought to be careful of the fascinating ones, young Southpaw, they're the most dangerous.'

(I realized all these are related to Southpaw. No wonder I adore that kitten! ;) )

There was a moment where Southpaw, when he meets Mara the first time, tries not to seem less-than-fascinating to this new friend of his. See how he tries to impress her? 

'He saw the adoration in Mara's eyes dim. His ears drooped. He thought fast, wanting to see those lovely green eyes light up again. (says a lot of things). He wondered whether he's overdone it, but Mara's eyes shone with ecstasy.'

Most of all, there's emotion. I loved this aspect of the book, it's totally realistic, takes into account the love and feelings of care among the cats. And not just the cats, there are other creatures too, the dogs, the cheels, the mice and rats and mongoose and bandicoots, the Babblers and the crows and the bulbuls. I can't help stating one cat characteristic I really admire (I'm not sure if it is for real too, having no cat-knowledge) but when Miao takes Southpaw on his first hunt, she tells him, 'Never kill for fun, Southpaw, only for food'. In other instances too, they respected other lives, killing only when they were hungry. Otherwise they lived in peace. Also, I did not like the Shuttered House ferals and their story, but that's how it is. The book is a great read, kind of cute too (in a very different way, not the sickly or cheesy kind of cute) and gives you a lot of perspective. It's very well written, totally engaging and makes you feel things you never thought you would. Mourning the loss of a cat? Yes, I did. Getting happy over a friendship with tigers? I did. The characters were all solid, even the ferals and the mongoose and the cheels. The best part is, humans weren't a part of the story, except for Mara, whose two 'Bigfeet' loved her, that's all. Oh, also the fakir at the dargah who loves cats! And the old Bigfeet in the Shuttered House. 

What made it even more interesting, if possible, is the fact that the book has so many illustrations (by Prabha Mallya)! Of the cats and rats and others, according to the story. They were absolutely wonderful! :)

This is an amazing book, I'm telling you. The cover says, 'The Wildings is bound to be hailed as the most imaginative and accomplished debut by an Indian novelist in years.' You know what? I have no doubts about it. I was never really a fan of Indian novelists, now I guess I can change that thought. :)

I've never before included book trailers! But see this one! 

PS- I wasn't sure where I could put it, but I was so interested with the description of how cats communicated, using the links. The Sending and those powers also perplexed me, though I guess that's fiction. Loved the telepathic idea, it's very innovative!

Recommended for: Everyone, really. Especially experimental readers who'd like to read something refreshing! :) No inappropriate content, so it's for everyone, across all ages! 

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  1. You know this review of yours reminded me of a movie - Roadside romeo - I am not too sure if you have watched it but yes that made me look at dogs in a different way!

    It was so damn cute just like this book and not to forget the gyaan they leave us with in most simple styles...truly adorable <3

    Will surely read this now as I am kind of loving this:)

    1. I haven't watched it but I do know the basis of that. I guess it's similar. I agree on the gyaan thing! Yes! I could actually create a parallel with humans and that was super cool!
      I'd love it if you read this :)

  2. I SEE! Hmm...

    The book does sound 'very imaginative' and definitely a first, I have heard by an Indian writer. Given what the writer chose to write on. I haven't been experimental with books yet, but the 5/5 rating is making me think again. ;)

    It'll definitely be a light read I guess, one you could take on a journey. Is it?

    1. Haha! Now you know what I was talking about :P

      It's quite meaningful and 'complete' kind of a book and it's not small. If you're looking for a quick read, this might not be it. But it's definitely going to keep you hooked on an otherwise boring journey ;)

  3. nice review Ashna,

    i must read this book,then, as i have four cats, three adults and one kitty,

    1. Ooh that's nice! Then you MUST read this! I'm sure you'd love it. The author has cats as pets as well, and she's 'stalked' the lives of a lot of cats for this book (according to the 'Acknowledgments' page).

  4. Sounds like an interesting book. Should check it out.
    Nicely written Ashna :)

  5. Cats personified :D You really brought the major issue that the book revealed in the review. Glad to have read it! The author really drew simultaneous comparisons with us humans, as most of the characteristics that cats portray, we humans possess as well. Quite an imaginative & unique depiction. :) Take care! Happy Reading :)

  6. hi ashna.. i have following your blog from quite a long time.. i belong to a city where there i hardly any reading culture and one decent book shop wherein i went and asked for "secret life of bees" and they said sorry, i asked for "the book of tomorrow", dey said sorry, i asked for the krishna key and again dey said sorry.. library is filled with books of i just dont know what and neither do any of my friends have reading habit... i got to know a lot from your blog like about, and i have noted down the books to read on the basis of your recommendations and your favourites...

    though i have been following your blog, i never commented as am littled introvert for commenting and talking.. still today i thought to go ahead and to atleast thank you for all info..

    keep up the great work...

    1. Hey Aakruti. Welcome. I'm glad you commented or I wouldn't have known anything about you! I'm very happy to know that you read this and you lke to read books. The 'Reading culture' is hard to find. Hardly any of my friends read as much as I do, either. Don't worry about it. Libraries? Yes. I've just known one library here in Delhi that I like, though even that one doesn't have the latest books I want to read.

      By the way, why don't you try online websites like Flipkart,, for books instead of bookstores? You'll get all the books you want from these sites. :)

      Thanks again for your comment. You reminded me of myself when I was shy and didn't comment much. If you want to talk more, about anything, please drop off an e-mail at I'll definitely get back. :)

      Keep reading and smiling! :D


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