Every morning in Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in Delhi, a gang of men gather looking for work in the building trade. For five years, Aman Sethi shared their lives, and in particular that of Mohammed Ashraf. Ashraf is a mazdoor, an itinerant house-painter, but he's not a typical labourer - he's studied biology in college, and after college learnt how to repair TV sets, cut suits, and slice chicken. He lived all over India, but now he finds himself in Delhi: the second most populous city in the country. The morning will bring hangovers, whisky breakfasts and possibly answers to the lingering questions that haunt Ashraf. How did he get here? Why is he the way he is? And is there a way back home?
One of the very best young journalists in India, Aman Sethi brings Ashraf vividly alive and illuminates the lives of countless others like him. Wry, humorous and insightful, A Free Man is an unforgettable portrait of an invisible man in his invisible city, and an extraordinary human story.
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A Free Man is a brilliant capturing of the language and bloodstream of a city. Aman Sethi has made a book that's remarkable in its voice and evocation. -
Fascinating, funny and extraordinarily moving. - Spectator
Funny and disturbing. -
A deeply moving, funny, and brilliantly written account from one of India’s most original new voices. -
A Free Man is a beautiful work of journalism, sympathetic and graceful. The author follows, and progressively befriends, a homeless day laborer in Delhi. What starts as classic ethnography becomes a gripping story, and ends as a homage to a lost friend. -
With A Free Man, Aman Sethi comes to the forefront of an extraordinary new generation of Indian non-fiction writers. His compassion and humor is matched by a fierce determination to tell the stories of ordinary Indians, too often forgotten in the scramble for the spoils of the economic boom. -
A Free Man is stunning. It reminds me of that Victorian masterpiece of investigative journalism, Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and London Poor. Aman Sethi ‘gets’ modern India better than any other journalist I know. Not only is he a remarkable reporter and storyteller, but he possesses a novelist’s ear for language, sense of the absurd, and perfect pitch. I’m bowled over, totally. -
This is probably the most graphic and truthful account of the reality of India’s uneven economic boom over the past two decades. - Independent
About the Author
Aman Sethi was born in Bombay in 1983. He studied chemistry in Delhi, and journalism in Chennai and New York. He is currently the Chhattisgarh correspondent for The Hindu. This is his first book.