From Ahmed Ali’s “Twilight in Delhi” to William Dalrymple’s “City of Djinns”, many books have tried to unravel the layers of Delhi’s history. First-time fiction writer Nilanjana Roy took a less-trodden path in her novel “The Wildings,” which came out in August in India — and which might come out in the United States as soon as next year. She wrote of life in the alleys of Delhi, but chose to do it from the perspective of cats in her novel.
“The advantage of writing about animals is that you can make it all up,” she said. Walking around Delhi, the journalist and literary critic took a fancy to the secret lives of cats, got a kitten, and a couple of years later, wrote about them.
“I started noticing cats and dogs and all these subterranean creatures, and I stopped thinking of the city as a human space,” she said. “And at some point it occurred to me that there was something interesting going on in here.”
Roy created a clan of “telepathic” cats living in Nizamuddin, one of Delhi’s oldest neighbourhoods. They are a peaceful bunch, killing rats and connecting with each other by “sending” in a network much like the Internet, until one day when another bunch of cats find their way out of a “shuttered house”, led by a tom with evil intentions.
A wave of “quivers” moves across whiskers in Nizamuddin, and a young orange kitten, the monsoon-eyed Mara, a strong “sender”, comes to the rescue.