the bastard of Istanbul

This is story about a colony of strays, a story where cats are the main characters. We also have eagles, mice and other animals while humans, also known as bigfeet, are nothing more than floundering peripheral beings to worry about.

These cats spend their days jumping on the roofs of Nizamuddin colony houses, running along the tight alleyways and hunting the grounds and protecting their territory following strict ethical and moral codes. One day, Nizammuddin Colony has a new addition, a kitten called Mara. This cute fur-ball is an obstruction and subject of worry in an otherwise peaceful area since she is a sender and can send loud and clear signals on the cats telepathy network. Things start to stir up in this colony and the cats are in a frenzy. Something is going to happen that will threaten their peace and their very existence in the colony they have called home for years.

Writing an adult book on cats could not have been easy but the author Nilanjana Roy pulls it off with charm and ease. You get invested in the lives of the cats Beraal, Miao, Katar, Southpaw and Mara. The writing is simple but flows smoothly evoking the images of the Delhi neighborhoods, the monsoon season and hustle of bustle of an old city. It made me miss home.

As someone rightly said, ‘We share this world with other species‘. This book really drives the point across for me. It’s a tale where the author not only explores the world of the cats but also explores themes like friendship, bravery, spirit of adventure, stepping out of the comfort zone among other things. The Wildings is a genuine effort to imagine the world of cats in relation to other animals, humans and their surroundings without relegating it to a cutesy story about cats.

You can compare the story of cats to humans. You can also try to find deeper symbolic connections of the world of strays with that of humans. You can definitely do that or you can also enjoy the story at face value and still be charmed. This story will definitely stick with me for years to come. Although this book is complete in itself, it has a sequel ‘The hundred names of Darkness’. Needless to say I’ll be reading that.

Highly recommended. 4 stars.

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