Tribal cats take over books

Bad cats, sad cats, mad cats, cute cats and catty cats. Writer Anushka Ravishankar makes space for all in her new picture book, I Like Cats. “Contrary to popular belief, I am, or was not, a cat lover. I like them,” she says, explaining the title. “But I absolutely love the illustrated versions of these furry, moody creatures. And, I always wanted to write a book on them,” she adds.

catCats as portrayed by Anand Shyam, a Gond painter from Madhya Pradesh

The 54-year-old author is known to create magic with text, typography and artwork in her books and this one is no exception. Along with her own unique quirky nonsense verse, the book is meant for children but can be a delight for any cat-loving adult. It contains a collection of paintings by some of the best-known tribal and folk artists of the country, including Swarna Chitrakar (Patua, West Bengal), Bhajju Shyam (Gond, Madhya Pradesh), Durga Bai (Gond, MP), Radhashyam Raut (Patachitra, Orissa), Ramesh Hengadi (Warli, Mahar-ashtra), and Putli Ganju (Sohrai, Jharkhand).

It was a framed cat in the house of Gita Wolf, publisher of Tara Books, which triggered a casual conversation and eventually gave birth to this quirky book. “I loved that illustration and was simply telling her that we should have a book on cats. Gita jumped at the idea and told me she had a whole collection of cat illustrations by various tribal and folk artists from across India. When I saw those, it was love at first sight. I knew I had found the perfect material for my next book. I picked the ones that spoke to me and created poems using their expressions.”

However, a lot has changed in Ravishankar’s life since she came up with the book. Now, she has a new member in the family...a cat! “He is called Eecha the Poocha. Eecha means fly and Poocha is cat in Malayalam. He is a small, black and furry one. I found him on my balcony. It was almost prophetic,” she laughs.

Priced at Rs 800, the handmade book is published by Tara Books and the artwork is compiled by Gita Wolf. It is available for purchase online at the company website. A regular version is available at Rs 350 on other portals.

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