How and where did you develop your affinity for felines and books?
I grew up in Delhi and Kolkata. My father was a government servant. There were books in the house always. We sometimes had to water the dal, but I don’t think there was a problem with the fiction. After marriage (to market analyst Devangshu Datta), we’ve been a two or three cat household. Now we have Tigrath and Bathsheba. Bathsheba arrived in a bucket and desperately needed a bath. She arrived after having a fight with a puddle which she clearly lost.Books featuring animals are often allegorical. What was your metaphor?
The Internet was a useful metaphor to explain something instinctive to cats. I’ve called it a status update. It came out from an actual moment when I was working at home on a column ignoring my cats. I had a strong sense I was being watched with some intensity by Tigrath, the large tomcat, sitting in a corner with his whiskers stretched out at me. Mara, the neat little cat, was sitting in another. They were looking at each other with an expression that said: ‘She’s dumb’. They were trying to be kind and include me in the conversation. I felt them say: ‘Humans are slightly disabled in this area.’ In the book, there’s this bit about a kitten afraid of the outside since there’s a sensory overdose. You can extrapolate it on anybody who has a fear of doing anything.What can humans learn from cats?
Cooperation and tenderness for one. Certainly the concept of how to be a good predator, which humans aren’t. A lot of the book was also written against the background of censorship and free speech controversy. Cats stay in a restricted world where they are at the mercy of the kindness of humans that can be withdrawn. The way we treat animals is very much the way we treat anyone disenfranchised. I look at that and look at Delhi’s gated communities and ask what do we want to exclude? People who are poor, people who don’t belong, people who are different from us, and animals.You are planning a trilogy. In the season of sequels – The Dark Knight Rises, Gangs of Wasseypur 2 – was it a decision driven by marketing?
I am so happy to be compared to Gangs of Wasseypur (laughs). My publisher David (Davidar of Aleph Book Company) said I had put two books into one and that I had to separate them. About the trilogy, I don’t know whether it will go that far. It is up to the people to pick up another story about cats.Famous Felines
* T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats has such memorable characters as Rum Tum Tugger, Skimbleshanks and Rumpleteazer, the really bad cat. And who can forgetMacavity, the cat that could levitate
* Gray-Malkin was the witches’ cat in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth
* The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland had a maverick, philosophical outlook towards the world
* PG Wodehouse once wrote: “The trouble with cats is that they’ve got no tact.”
From HT Brunch, August 19
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