A Free Man
is a heartbreaking and troubling portrait of poverty and loss, and also an unvarnished record of one journalist's complicated relationship with his subject. The narrative is the product of five years Aman Sethi spent following a group of day laborers in Old Delhi as urban renewal programs upended the chaotic lives of its poorest residents.
Sethi wants to "understand the mazdoor ki zindagi
- the life of the labourer" in Old Delhi. His subjects are the mazdoor
- carriers, builders, trench diggers, painters and plasterers who earn up to one hundred and fifty rupees a day, approximately three U.S. dollars. India has large pockets of migrant laborers who live in urban areas, and though many send money home to their families and maintain strong family ties, the itinerant mazdoor
that Sethi focuses on are "free" in that they are unencumbered by...
Beyond the Book
A Free Man
is journalist Aman Sethi's first book. It grew out of a research project and interviews he conducted in 2005 as research for an article about healthcare for homeless workers. In an August 2012 Publisher's Weekly
interview, Sethi explains why he chose to write his book:
When I started as a reporter in 2005, I was surprised by the lack of [coverage] on Delhi's working class. The city had just won the bid to host the 2010 Commonwealth games, and the government had begun a massive program of urban renewal in which hundreds of thousands of homes in slums and working-class neighborhoods were demolished to make way for new infrastructure. I wrote a three-part series on "Working Delhi" to explore the lives - and capture the oral histories - of...