Amitava Kumar’s short biography of Patna, A Matter of Rats, starts with, well, rats. “In my mind’s eye, I watch a train approaching Patna Junction in the early morning.
The traveller sees the men sitting beside the tracks with their bottoms exposed, plastic bottles of water on the ground in front of them, often a mobile phone pressed to the ear. But at night, the first inhabitants of Patna that the visitor passes are the invisible ones: warm, humble, highly sociable, clever, fiercely diligent rats”.
There are soon tales of rats that stole the author’s mother’s dentures, that — so a policeman said — drank the alcohol they seized, that bit babies, rats as large as rabbits, very many of them. In this Hamlinesque world without a Pied Piper, the only man with a solution is a bureaucrat in the department of rural development. He thinks rats would make for good meals, if only more people ate them. At present only members of
a community called the Musahars do.