A piece on A Matter of Rats in the Hudson Valley magazine, Chronogram:
A Matter of Rats was inspired by E. B. White’s 1949 essay Here Is New York, for which White traveled to Manhattan during a heat wave, staying at the Algonquin Hotel and going on daily foraging trips.
Kumar followed his lead, visiting Patna in August and going out every day to interview residents and observe such phenomena as gleeful crowds massing around the city’s first escalator, inside a five-story mall. Their eagerness to experience the new struck a chord.
Download the “Introduction” to A Matter of Rats, entitled “The Place of Place” and written specially for the US edition, here on Scribd.
Each book, like a place on a map joined by roads and rivers to other places, is connected to other books. That is certainly true about this books about my hometown, Patna. There is another facet to this argument: places seemingly unconnected might well be very near each other in terms of literary representation. In my book, New York is closer to Patna than is usually imagined.
When a publisher in Delhi asked me to write about Patna, he mentioned as a possible model E.B. White’s classic essay, Here is New York.
When the Indian edition of A Matter of Rats came out, I was asked during one of my interviews about the epitaph I would choose for myself:
Q: What would you like your epitaph to read?
AK: He failed often, but look – no one fails all the time.
My mother passed away in Patna earlier this month. This eulogy, written on the night of her death, was published in the Indian Express:
I am writing these words during a 14-hour flight from New York to Delhi. After landing in Delhi, I will catch another flight, this one to Patna. I am going to Patna to cremate my mother.
A piece that I wrote on trains while traveling in a train. It appeared in Northeast Review:
My son turned four the other day. Every night I read to him and sometimes we read together a picture book about trains. This is a book my son likes very much. The pictures show trains in bright colors from many different countries, and often these trains have a different purpose. Most of them carry passengers, of course, but there are others that carry freight, or they clean rail-tracks, or plow snow. There is only one picture from India. The picture looks dated. The caption beneath the train says “Timber Train.” Its steam engine has a sign on the side “Insular Lumber Co.” The palm trees in the background suggest the picture was taken somewhere in south India, maybe Kerala. My son, who was born and has grown up here in the US, unfailingly asks the same question: “Dad, have you traveled on that train?”