Winner of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award, 2013. The cats made cameo appearances on the shortlists for the Commonwealth Prize (2013)and the Tata First Book Literary Award (2012)
“You’re a Sender,” she remembered her mother telling her, the day she had opened her eyes for the first time. Mara had been curled up, a tiny comma against her mother’s warm flank, listening to the giant purr of traffic on the bridge over the canal. Her mother’s blue eyes had been wary, almost sad as the cat washed her tiny kitten’s whiskers, making them tingle.
“What is a Sender?” Mara had asked. And her mother had answered slowly: “Senders are very unusual, Mara, there’s never more than one in a clan and most of the Delhi clans haven’t seen a Sender in more than three generations. Being a Sender means you can travel without using your paws–your whiskers will take you everywhere. And you can see and hear more than most cats can.”
Where to find The Wildings:
About The Wildings:
In the labyrinthine alleys and ruins of Nizamuddin, an old neighbourhood in Delhi, lives a small band of cats. Miao, the clan elder, a wise, grave Siamese; Katar, 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—the first in a series of extraordinary events that threatens to annihilate them and everything they hold dear.
“The tomcat watched the pair as they left, the old queen and the young half-grown kitten, their silhouettes fading away into the darkness. He felt a small pang as he remembered his first hunt, and he hoped Miao would be kind to Southpaw.
The night was humid, the air scented with raat ki rani and mogra blossoms. There was a half moon, partly obscured by clouds. As they slipped away, Southpaw felt his fur tremble with excitement. “Miao, where are we-?”
The older cat turned sinuously and cuffed him, her claws out just enough to leave a thin red line on his neck. “The first rule,” she said. “No mewing. No whisker linking unless I say so, because your prey is small enough to pick it up. And smart enough to make a run for it.” She cuffed him again, this time slamming his head to the right and holding it down so that he could see a frightened gray musk shrew scutter away, into the safety of the lantana bushes.”
The Shakti Bhatt award:
The Wildings won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award in 2013. Previous winners include:
From The Shakti Bhatt First Book Award website:
“The judges read 74 books from across India before making their decision. They were unanimous in their verdict, jury member Niven Govinden saying, “We all felt that this was an incredibly strong shortlist in an incredibly strong publishing year. The confidence and ambition of each of these first books was wonderful: stories and voices to lose yourself in, to learn from, to feel.”
Jury member Meena Kandasamy added: “If the purpose of awarding a debut novel is, among other things, for pushing the boundaries of what a novel can do, then The Wildings deserves great applause from the Big Feet. Somewhere along the way, we have appropriated and internalised the idea that feelings/emotions/drama belong to the realm of human beings, and The Wildings, by throwing light on a world that we do not bother visiting even in our thoughts, alerts us to existences that are not acknowledged merely because they speak a language that we do not comprehend, because they do not alter our convenient rigmaroles of everyday life.
“I did not read The Wildings until the very, very end. I told myself a hundred times—oh no, not a cat book, not a book that could carry me away with Prabha Mallya’s illustrations of cute cats, what an unkind punishment to a professed dog lover—and when I did get myself into reading it, I felt it was brilliant. It banished my skepticism. Madly paraphrasing Anne Sexton—if falling is love is because your belief undoes your disbelief—then, The Wildings had that kind of effect. I resisted reading it, and when I ventured into it, I found it beautiful, enchanting, and persuasive enough to lure me into a very private universe.”
“She was an orange kitten with deep green eyes, no bigger than the palm of my partner’s hand. Mara had been rescued from a drain in Sujan Singh Park by my cousin, and was temporarily living with them and their three dogs.”
“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.”
“I came to care for these wildings more than I have cared in a very long time for people in a novel.” ~ Pradeep Sebastian, in The Hindu.
“You’ll wish you had whiskers and could mew.” ~ Deepanjana Pal, in DNA
“By the book’s end I wanted to “link” into the author’s head so I could read the sequel in advance.” ~ Jai Arjun Singh, in Tehelka.
“Mara captures the heart; the other wildings seize the imagination.” Sharanya Mannivannan, in the Sunday Guardian.
“Wildly engaging and foxy… I already think that when I go to Nizamuddin next, I will see Southpaw hanging from a tree or Beraal quietly walking past, trying not to be seen!” ~ Fancy That Manxcat.
“A novel for all seasons and for all ages. Nilanjana Roy has created a savage, dangerous world… a world that seems tangibly real…” ~ Gillian Wright, in India Today
What We Talk About When We Talk About Cats: If you’re reading The Wildings in a group, a list of suggestions for discussions.