Saturday 8 June 2013

Cat story

Let me admit upfront that I am fond of cats. Even my favourite cartoon character is a cat-Garfield. During my school days in Chennai we had ‘adopted’ a stray cat who used to frequent our house and  we used to feed milk to her regularly. At my cousin’s palace in Allahabad, there was an elegant Siamese cat whom I fondly remember playing, with when she was a kitten. The attributes I typically associate with cats include cleanliness, lazy, independent and non-obtrusive (as long as you keep feeding them on time) and a bit of a show off (depending on their pedigree). Hence you can imagine my excitement when I started reading Nilanjana Roy’s debut book-The Wildings (Aleph),a highly imaginative tale about cats based in and around Nizamuddin area of Delhi (well know because of the famous dargah).  I have to admit that I enjoyed the book. Obviously the author has been a keen observant of the species and she has captured their nuances very well, be it about their playing, fighting, hunting or just sleeping.

The story starts with the adoption to a cute orange colour kitten called Mara by a family of bigfeet(humans).The presence of this  kitten with certain special powers amidst them alarms the  stray cats of Nizamuddin (cats mark out their territories where outsiders are not welcome) and they plan to kill her. Meanwhile the basement of a ramshackled house is the breeding ground for a bunch of wild cats who have never been outside and prey on any stray animal which happen to stumble into the house. Only the old owner of the house holds them back. Once he is no more the stage is set for an epic confrontation between the wild cats of the house with the other group of stray cats of Nizamuddin who have by now made peace with Mara and are training her to control her special power. Will this power help them in their fight to the finish with the wild cats? What role will the cheels play in this showdown? Will the cats belonging to dargah come to their rescue? The stage is set for an exciting climax. Beside the cheels, rats, tigers, langur and a mongoose also play an important role in the narrative.
It may be a typical good guys vs the bad guys story, but it is the  idea of putting   cats as the main protagonists that is the real winner.
The production quality of the book (as in other Aleph titles) is first –class. The glossy cover and the beautiful illustrations inside (by Prabha Mallya) add to the flavour. If you have not bought any Aleph title earlier, this is a good one to start with, for all fiction lovers.

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