Flight for survival
Reviewed by Arbina Rashid

The Hundred Names of Darkness
by Nilanjana Roy
Aleph. Pages 313. Rs 495

The Hundred Names of DarknessThe unsure meep has turned into a confident meow. Mara, the abandoned kitten blessed with an extraordinary "sending" power, has come a long way from being a helpless baby trying hard to get a grip on her communicative whiskers to a young queen who dares to venture out of her adopted home and claim her clan, an eclectic bunch of cats, popularly known as the Nizamuddin clan.

Welcome to Nilanjana Roy's delightful, yet complicated, cat world where every clan has a distinctive characteristic depending on the surroundings it lives in, where there is wisdom to cultivate, rules to follow, battles to fight…

Unlike its prequel, The Wildings, in The Hundred Names of Darkness, the battle is not a clear-cut one between the Nizamuddin clan and some bunch of feral cats. This time the threat comes from a source much higher — Bigfeet and their mindless exploitation of natural resources. Pushed to a marginal existence with little food and even little space to move around, the clan has no other option but to shift base.

So, it's natural that Mara, being the sender of the clan, has to shoulder the responsibility of finding them a place and helping them to relocate. Mara proves her mettle by forming a network of five other senders from different clans and guiding the Nizamuddin team through the complex maze of Delhi roads, finally to lead them to the Golf Course, their new home. Claiming a new home is never easy, especially, if the place is infested by thousands of bandicoots. A battle ensues between the marsupials and the famished hunters. Roy gives no gory details of the bloodshed.

There are no magical appearances of larger-than-life characters and the reader has to be content with a linear fight between the predator and the prey. Roy makes up with humour , be it the names of her characters — Doginder Singh, a rescue dog, who does not mind a spot of fast food from the dustbins rather than hunting, Noah Mor, a peacock who died when hit by a golf ball. There are eccentricities of Kooky the koel who thinks whoever, be it peacock or a Bigfeet, comes near her is in love with her or Hatch, short for Hatchet, who shrugs off everything with a nonchalant "whatever", even when he is asked by his parents to be a cheel and fly rather than just keep hopping on the ground. The curiosity about cats aroused with Roy’s first book, has been sustained in this sequel too. When Mara gets a "sending" from her young one, Monsoon, telling her where she is, one wonders if Monsoon’s story will be as engrossing as Mara’s. Only time will tell.