Nilanjana Roy’s The Wildings, on my third reading of it (a couple of months after the last illustration for the book was handed in) still moves me deeply.

It was always meant to be an illustrated book. The story reveals a living, vibrant, layered world that exists right here part of our bustling human settlements, that we either ignore or know far too little about. There are interconnected communities of animals and birds passing quietly through tangles of undergrowth, winding lanes and a timeless old Delhi backdrop.

This complex, exciting, very visceral story naturally led to a very textured, tactile illustration process (in which constructing, cutting, taping, splotching, stonewashing, layering featured prominently). Conceptually, the illustrations needed to echo the tone of the story, depict key moments and allow for long, exploratory reading pauses at opportune moments. Also, they had to be discreet enough not to give away too much of the story at a casual flip-through.

There were so many scrumptiously described scenes that absolutely demanded to be illustrated. The idea was to heighten the sense of drama at these key points, to make the story practically leap off the page and wrap itself around you.

Like these.

Several cats I’ve met have sneaked into these pages and become these characters.

Though the cats are presumably the core of the book, there were many of these teeny tiny illustrations we snuck into the book – these made the smaller wildings’ presence felt all through the book, and of the weed-filled wild world they inhabit.

Prabha Mallya

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