A Free Man A Story of Life and Death in Delhi Kindle

A Free Man A Story of Life and Death in Delhi Like Dave Eggers's Zeitoun and Alexander Masters's Stuart this is a tour de force of narrative reportageMohammed Ashraf studied biology became a butcher a tailor and an electrician's apprentice; now he is a homeless day laborer in the heart of old Delhi How did he end up this way In an astonishing debut Aman Sethi brings him and his indelible group of friends to life through their adventures and misfortunes in the Old Delhi Railway Station the harrowing wards of a tuberculosis hospital an illegal bar made of cardboard and plywood and into Beggars Court and back onto the streets In a time of global economic strain this is an unforgettable evocation of persistence in the face of poverty in one of the world's largest cities Sethi recounts Ashraf's surprising life story with wit candor and verve and A Free Man becomes a moving story of the many ways a man can be free

  • Hardcover
  • 230 pages
  • A Free Man A Story of Life and Death in Delhi
  • Aman Sethi
  • English
  • 15 May 2016
  • 9780393088908

10 thoughts on “A Free Man A Story of Life and Death in Delhi

  1. Khush Khush says:

    Not so long and a well written book on Delhi Aman Sethi follows the life of 'Ashraf' and his friends –a gang of impoverished daily wage earners I enjoyed reading this book and knowing about the people who are so brutally ignored in everyday life as if they do not exist The indifference of middle class Indians is astonishing Sethi follows 'Ashraf' and shows us what his life is like It is rare that someone like Ashraf becomes the central character someone we can see and identify with This is indeed an achievement that Sethi goes after this character and fully embraces him; the likes of 'Ashrafs' are not seen in Indian society They are only one thing that is they are poor They are just reduced to their poverty Sethi through this book makes 'them' visibleEven though I liked reading this book I also have serious problems with it I also feel angry with the author He makes friends with these laborers and just on the strength of his education and class gains an easy access to these impoverished lives He smokes with them talks with them and becomes an important part of their lives especially Ashraf's As a reader one knows that this friendship is not really real The book is a project It will be over He is a journalist who is looking for 'material' for his book One uestions how it is different from 'builders' who exploit the poor The book at least in parts becomes annoying where the author 'helps' Ahsraf One feels this; the poor in India are exploited by upper and middle classes and the poor are also helped by 'them' depending on their mood In the case of the author it is largely a trade off between him and the life that he uses as 'material' for his book I wish the author has not put himself into this book It would have been a better book then– at least for readers like meAfter having read this book I feel a bit upset not only about Delhi but also about the world at large that there are people collectives nations who are in positions to 'help' others I wish this word 'help' disappears from the world This ability to 'help' tells us what is rotten with the world First one excludes exploits and safeguards one's own privileges and then goes out in the world to help

  2. Sankarshan Sankarshan says:

    The blurbs rave about it If you can stop smirking at the obviously PR induced sound bytes and look inside the book you'd find it worth a read In fact it is a recommended read The writing might be a bit similar to a rushed notes in journal kind but the acute sense of 'people watching' and awareness of language 'helpery' a word that I last heard in the college canteen from the canteen attendant make it a good reason to stick till the end And at the end you'd ask yourself whether you were reading the story of Ashraf or the story of Aman or even the story of yourself given that you have managed to be removed from the milieu that is described There are moments where you wince at the breaking down of the wall between the researcher and the researched upon or stifle a sly chuckle at the pithiness and coarseness of the street smartness And of course the underlying theme around 'kamai' and 'azadi' wherein is a uirky pointer to the titleI'd suggest to give this a read Recommended

  3. Erin Erin says:

    I absolutely loved this book actually finished it in one night Aman Sethi does an amazing job transporting the reader to Delhi The people he chose to write about are colorful and insightful I hope the author decides to do research on the lives of those struggling in the slums of India It's a section of the global population that is largely ignored I truly felt like I was given a window inside the lives of these interesting people

  4. Patrice Hoffman Patrice Hoffman says:

    Won through a a Goodreads GiveawayIf I were walking through the aisles of my favorite book store I would probably have not given this book a second glance I ususally don't read too many biographies so I can only review this book based on how entertaining and enlightening it is for me A Free Man A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi is a rather short book and I was able to read it in one sitting and has a pretty interesting voice that isn't stoic or depressing as I have found some biographies to be Aman Sethi chronicles the life Mohammed Asraf and his friends homeless day labourers There are moments in this book where I was so sad for this group of untouchables and other moments where I wanted to burst out in laughter As I read this book I was saddened by the outlawing of the homeless and the fact that some people get lost never to be found again or even looked for for that matter I learned a lot about India's caste system and how men like Mohammed go around it's boundariesThe author does a great job at bringing to life the Sadar Bazaar Even the chaos of the hustle and bustle was well organized and vividly rendered I felt like I was many of the thousands of people that gather amongst the vendors walking and talking with Mohammed and his group of friends Before long I began to care about this group of people who are treated as outcastsoutlaws or invisible In conclusion this is really a true gripping account of life and death in Delhi and I'm happy to have been given the chance to read it

  5. Chetana Chetana says:

    Refreshingly honest Would say it's better than Katherine Boo's 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' it's much personal and sensitive to the author's position in the classcaste hierarchy

  6. Hera Diani Hera Diani says:

    Amid the streets of Bara Tooti Chowk one of New Delhi’s oldest and largest labor markets and in between marijuana joints shots of cheap liuor and good old tea Mohammed Ashraf offers insights on what it is to become a 40 year old “a man starts to fear strangers” on the career ladder for construction workers and the creed of his profession “Azadi Aman bhai Azadi Azadi” says the house painter “Azadi is the freedom to tell the maalik to fk off when you want to”Ashraf is the main character in this nonfiction tour de force of gonzo reportage by young Indian journalist Aman Sethi who writes his account in the first person and is witness to all the action While doing a series of magazine articles on the incredible urban transformation of Delhi in 2005 to 2006 in preparation for the Commonwealth Games Sethi 30 discovered that the clearing out of slums was changing the city from a place of nuts and bolts manufacturing and “getting your hands dirty” kind of work to one that is services drivenAnd so he set out to capture the dwindling gritty everyday work and the laborers who do it in a first person narrativeSethi’s uest takes him to Sadar Bazaar one of the oldest markets in Delhi where he encounters the characters who later feature in the book Out of this group of manual laborers ‑ construction workers rickshaw pullers and porters ‑ emerges the loudest and most stubborn voice which belongs to Ashraf whom Sethi befriendsTheir relationship becomes the main narration of this account of mazdoor ki zindagi ‑ the life of a laborer Ashraf is colorful witty wild and charming ‑ a street philosopher of sorts who is on his own Out of touch with his family he even forgot his mother’s phone number as he moved between menial jobs including butcher tailor and electrician’s apprenticeBut Ashraf is no angel His story mirrors the plight of poor men in many developing countries who do back breaking labor only to spend their hard earned pay on alcohol and cigarettes which is why they are homeless Through the stories of Ashraf and other workers Sethi creates characters and breathes life into people who are invisible elements of society In the book they are not mere statistics objects of pity or a burden on the government and society They are authentic individual voices and their toil drives development in the capitalStories unfold as Sethi follows the adventures and misfortunes of this motley crew Apart from the personal harrowing accounts of Ashraf and other laborers as they navigate the city and eke out a living amid the changing economic situation Sethi also delves into other issues including corruption scandals surrounding India’s organizing of the Commonwealth Games and a public health system that fails to serve poor people including the laborers he chronicles“There you will find patients suffering They suffer not from their illness but from their abandonment” says one veteran laborer who is being treated for tuberculosis at a local hospitalAt its best despite being nonfiction the book has a good novel like flow with an amusing and charming narrative without being melodramatic despite documenting some tragic stories It is accessible than the short story collection “Between the Assassinations” by the Booker Prize winning author of “White Tiger” Aravind Adiga which deals with similar issues and has a similar approach However while Sethi says he deliberately wanted to shy away from the macro story and focus on people he could have elaborated on the bigger picture to give readers depth and contextFor a long time resident of Jakarta which is nearly as messy as Delhi this book hits close to home as it would in many large Asian cities that are struggling to cope with a chaotic transformation from massive urban villages to modern metropolisesThe line “Delhi is a city of chance encounters spawned by the failure of public transportation” can easily describe Indonesia’s capital which we love to hate Then again as Sethi notes about India’s capital “This isn’t just any city This is Delhi where everyone is a baazigar or a gambler and a man too timid to risk kuch bhi ‑ anything ‑ may lose sab kuch everything” as published in Strategic Review Journal

  7. Maheep Maheep says:

    It is a different book if you don’t read much into the cover Should you see it in one of thebookstores and are slightly fazed by indecision wondering if you should pick it up or not then youshouldHere’s whyNo matter where you are in Delhi you must know that the hands that have borne Delhi into its ever changing shape are those hands that live on a daily wage These hands that go through an almostsimilar fate everyday The Morning Tea Everyday a country distilled whiskey Brushes HammersChisel and the fate of covering ones face from the destiny that repeats itself ‘A Free Man’ is abouthow these daily wages lead a construction worker to be – lawaris with azadi and akelapanThese homeless rebuilders of this megalopolitan – who stray on the footpaths of a chowk namedBara Tooti in Sadar Bazar A small refuge that became after the demolition of illegal colonies inpreparation of Commonwealth Games in the year 2010 This book looks closely into their livesand their state of economy in an ever growing state of Delhi lived on the daily wages a uite closeaccount infact How these mavericks build a city – where everyone is running away or towardssomething while they sit wait and ponder – how a lawaris finds his own identity while life gushesoff full streamThe story revolves around the protagonist – Mohammad Ashraf a safediwalla white washerworking on daily wages while he whitewashes houses His mornings starting with the bareminimum of two rupees for the “morning special chai” and two for the digestive results ofthe former; in the evening lounging about with his “medium type” friends near about the chowkand doing away his drinking while giving his witty remarks about life in Delhi – “kacha chaba jatihai sabko” “Aman bhai” also finds some time to hear about other people in vicinity who wait forjobs to come to them and their stories of the past the present in Delhi and their hopeful schemesof a richer tomorrow These stories are weld together with the craft of interesting moorings bythe writer giving away the lives that lie under the debris illegal construction and its demolition ofcolonies in the heart of the heart of IndiaAman Sethi the author – has carved a new facet for the journalism in India After spending fiveyears with the homeless with heart putting a black mark on the saying “home is where heart isSethi devels deeper into the safediwallas pahelledars mazdoors and the slightly better off mistri’sand rolls into their life’s longing and the burning for it A similar book A City of Dijnns by WilliamDalrymple who takes a fleeting attempt on such matters does not match with the probing writingstyle of Sethi The man behind the pen while writing A Free Man has taken utmost interest in tryingto relay his logic and reasoning behind the happenings of the veiled life within Delhi Anotherreason why this book becomes an intriguing read with a funny bone and a few amusing cursesSimply put Very well researched almost lived I would say brings out the element of daring inthe man to see an uglier dressing on the trifles of an ever changing Delhi

  8. C.P. C.P. says:

    I received this book free of charge courtesy of Goodreads First Reads GiveawaysWow Just wow This book has left me speechless I am sure I cannot do it justice in a written review but I will try This is the true story of one reporter who followed homeless workmen throughout their day onoff for years in Old Delhi In particular a man named Mohammed Ashraf He wanted to get their perspective on things and used an audio recorder hand written notes throughout his interviews with them Their stories their lives their philosophies are truly something worth reading Everything in here is from the reporters own tapesnotes and was translated from Hindi to English There are many times where I had to re read parts over again to fully understand what was happening events were moving fast or new people being introduced but that is the way these events unfolded Like the lives of those in Bara Tooti new places new people at a whim I think the overall translation of the book was fantastic while some things cannot be conveyed and many slang words are used you get a full dose of the culture and understanding of the events taking place Hindi is not a Germanic language making translation into English twice as difficult I really applaud those who did thisIt is in many ways a tragic read You know how it's going to end but it's still sad to get there I wonder how they would feel knowing millions were about to partake of their lives? From the happiest times of owning successful businesses having families to the worst times of being so destitute they were unable to pay for the usage of a toilet? I think overall they would be pleased A claim to fame of sorts I guess we will never knowI hope Aman Sethi will write novels it is clear to see why journalism is his venue He is very gifted with words and conveying events so well that you become connected to them a world away

  9. Blue Blue says:

    Thank you Goodreads First Reads for this great bookAt a point in my life when I feel tied down to a not so great job desperately looking for a better one or fantasizing about irrational alternatives like opening an indie bookstore to be free of dysfunctional offices and bad bosses the idea of working and living wherever and whenever you want working for money and living until the money runs out leaving a city at the drop of a hat to go live and work somewhere else for a few days or months or years All of this sounds so fascinating and almost romantic Except as we learn in A Free Man this type of freedom has its price too In fact it seems only the very poor who have nothing to their name can maybe live this kind of life Half vagabond half day worker the main character in the book that Sethi follows seems to be a typical example of the free man life But no man is truly free as we all know and as the story unfolds the things that severely limit his freedom come into focus I am still in awe of such a life and I think some people can lead this sort of life especially if they were born in a western country that gives them the freedom to move around without visa issues and a relatively cheap or free health care system to fall back on in their old age I remember my sister once met a European guy who just travels around Europe and Asia staying in hostels for free in exchange for doing repairs and IT work That's the rich version of Sethi's book I supposeWell written with a good sense of humor A Free Man is a great read It certainly puts life in perspective in many ways

  10. Gourav Gupta Gourav Gupta says:

    Thought provoking and realistic whether it's the life of a laavaris what if I was the one in Ashraf's shoes? What does it feel to be anonymous with nowhere to go no door to knock on? or the unpolished language used in the book or the casualness of the casual labourers and of life at Bara Tutti The book for most parts is both a little haunting and disturbing and yet rejoices the prosaic and trivial nuances of everday life which the privilaged ones take for granted Ashraf's life is a mosaic of different shades of grey; dark sad happy entertaining alive artistic shameful contemplative at times and at times serves as the naked truth about our Indian society Ashraf is a brave character who for not even once regrets any of his decision that he took at some crossroad onceAll in all a good read for people who have the apetite for a little vulgurness which is one of a uitenssential parts of life as an Indian by an author who isn't wearing the shroud of maturitysigh and writes like an amateur driven by passion than senses making it even better

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