They say every human being shares their habitation with rats. It doesn’t matter where in the world or how affluent the locality. You can be sure that rats are close by, thriving on readily available food supplies and enjoying shelter from the elements. Growing up in Colombo Sri Lanka, whenever we heard noises in the ceiling, we naturally assumed they were caused by our rodent housemates frolicking above us. When the noises became louder and the frolicking resembled frantic scurrying, we were sure the rats were being chased by a snake, usually and appropriately a rat snake, or garandiya in the local vernacular. We rarely saw these creatures. We didn’t want to see them and were thankful they obligingly stayed out of sight. I suspect they didn’t relish the prospect of seeing us either.

Sometimes, a superstitious and impressionable person like my mother would attribute the noises to something more sinister than rats and rat snakes. Once, she insisted that they were created by an evil spirit occupying our home. After months of haranguing my father, he consulted a medium who confirmed the existence in our home of an angry woman intent on revenge for her troubled life by wreaking havoc on all of us. An exorcist was engaged to cast out the unwelcome occupant. Afterwards, the noises continued. I thought they occurred as often and as loud as before, but my mother said the noises were now different. Unquestionably rats, she maintained.

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