By C.P. Belliappa
Title : The Wild Cat’s Compendium
Author : Dr. Nima Poovaya Smith
Year : 2022
Pages : 51
Price : Rs. 449
Publisher: Caracal Publications, United Kingdom
Dr. Nima Poovaya-Smith (parental home Ammanichanda) has just launched a delightful book titled The Wild Cat’s Compendium, which is a collection of 45 brilliantly crafted verses on 45 species of wild cats as well as few of the domestic ones.
Composing poems is an art and Nima excels in succinctly portraying the feline species in all its glory. In a few apt words, the 45 poems read as fluidly as the graceful strides of the cats. (Read the sample poem.)
Cats of All Tribes
Cats of all tribes major, middling, minor, inlaid menace and glamour, damascened suits of shadow armour.
Your coats boast such stylish motifs. Spots, dots, rosettes, stripes, flecks, spirals.
Draw breath, there is more, of this feline allure. Marbled, banded, clouded, streaked, stippled, brindled.
Your fur a lush canvas for lavish mark-making. Each unique striation etched with precision. Nature’s artful illusion.
The guile of the design, woven into the dapple of sun and shade, dissolving into air without hint or sign.
Seeing you without knowing we do, even when face-to-face. Our deepest, murkiest selves in plain view to that occult feline gaze.
What is remarkable about this compendium is the in-depth research that has gone into the lives, habitat, behaviour, and appearance of each variety of cat. Nima has been working on this book for quite a few years and has packed a great deal of information wonderfully crafted using her treasure trove of highly refined vocabulary. In addition, Nima has woven the grave threats these feline species face in the wild and that their primary detractors belong to the human species. In one of the poems, she has given a consciously chilling recipe for preparing tiger bone wine. Hopefully those who indulge in such shameful practices will realise and shun their superstition-ridden beliefs.
In the Introduction to the book, Nima mentions about her (and mine) maternal grandparents’ home (in Palangala village, Kodagu), where tigers and other wild cats roamed close to human dwellings. During our childhood days we have heard several tiger tales from our shikar-loving uncles. Over the years, those childhood memories have expanded in Nima’s mind to bring out this wonderful collection of poems.
As a bonus, each poem is richly illustrated with paintings by several well-known artists. One of the artists is Nima’s brother Sunil’s wife Sheila, an alumna of CAVA, Mysuru.
Nima earned her Ph.D in English literature from Mysore University under the guidance of Prof. U.R. Ananthamurthy who used to mention that Nima was one of his best students. She went on a scholarship to University of Leeds to pursue her post-doctoral studies. She has been a curator of several museums in the UK. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2016 for her contribution in the field of arts and museums. She was appointed as Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire in 2020, which entails interacting with the British royal family.
Currently Nima is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds.
Wild Cats’ Compendium was launched at the Ilkley Literature Festival in October 2022. In the accompanying photograph, Nima is in conversation with David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood (and second cousin of King Charles III), during the book launch.
Wild Cat’s Compendium is available on Amazon. However, currently only kindle version of the book is marketed in India: The Wild Cats’ Compendium: Cats of All Tribes eBook: Poovaya-Smith, Nima: Amazon.in: Kindle Store
Reading Wild Cat’s Compendium is an enriching experience. Every time you re-read a poem you learn something more. I rate this book as a Collectors’ Item.