Amitava Kumar’s latest book, a biography of Patna, is infested with lurid rats. In the opening chapter of the book A Matter of Rats, Kumar writes that these pesky rodents lurk in the chthonic underworld and emerge in the night to binge on the city’s resources and bloat up to be “as big as cats”. The local newspapers also report on their carnivorous feats and feasts with incidents of babies being bitten by rats. The use of rats as a symbol of ghoulish appetite is not novel.