x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A Free Man: life in the slums, Delhi's murky underbelly

Realism takes on a new meaning with Aman Sethi's recorded observances of Delhi's impoverished.

A Free Man, by Aman Sethi
A Free Man, by Aman Sethi

Realism takes on a new meaning with Aman Sethi's recorded observances of Delhi's impoverished. As a journalist, Sethi's most renowned accomplishment in the field was the 2011 International Committee of the Red Cross award he collected for his coverage of police violence in Chhattisgarh villages. A Free Man, his first book, examines a life no less riveting, through the lens of the crude litanies spun by his subject.

Which brings us to Mohammed Ashraf; a humble house painter by day, working hard to earn a living, only to fritter his money away as night falls and his addiction to drink calls. How exactly Sethi comes to earn Ashraf's trust is never fully explained, a technical flaw that can be overlooked for the lucid descriptions of lives that are tumbling to the gutter. As a writer, Sethi has a keen eye for detail and a sense of perception that succeeds in drawing the reader into the murky underbelly of Ashraf's world.

Laced with black humour, A Free Man is a clever study of contrasting lives that amuse and perturb in equal measures.