Kumar emphatically writes, ‘When I first came to Delhi, I hated Patna. But I remember I also hated myself then.’ I remember when I first arrived in Delhi I used to introduce myself as hailing from Gurgaon, where my uncle lived, for fear of being stamped a Bihari. It took three years for me to make peace with my identity, four years to list Patna as my hometown on Facebook and seven years to confess about my belongingness to my city here, after a writer of Kumar’s calibre has written about it that gives me an unprecedented pride while exclaiming, ‘Haan, hum Patna ke hain.’
The other night, I called my grandmother, who lives in Patna, and asked about rats. They have always been there, she said. Why didn’t you ever discuss them at home during my childhood? I asked. Because they have always been there, she responded. I was amused, having realised why Kumar’s book is titled so, for rats have always been there, like a loyal companion, unlike any of its citizens. I could not sleep for an hour; I lay in my Delhi apartment, listening to the rats biting through stacks of newspapers, their murmurs becoming louder with every minute that passed. A strange thought struck me. Did it sneak into my luggage while I was returning from Patna six months ago? An affirmative answer made me sleep in peace. My roots, at last, had come home.