The Daily Worker’s Chappals


Culture Strike has published a brief adaptation of a section from A Matter of Rats:

A couple of days before Independence Day this year, en route to Patna, I met Aman Sethi for dinner at a Delhi restaurant. Sethi is the author of A Free Man, a wonderful account of Ashraf, a daily-wage laborer from Patna living in Delhi. Ashraf was introduced by Sethi thus: ‘Mohammed Ashraf is a short man, a slight man, a dark man with salt-and-pepper hair; a sharp man, a lithe man, a polite man with a clipped moustache and reddish eyes.’ When we meet Ashraf in Sethi’s book he is a safediwallah, a house painter, although he has followed many professions: he had sold eggs, chicken, even lottery tickets, and has worked as a butcher, tailor, and an electrician’s apprentice. The place where he lives and waits for a contractor to pick him up for a day’s labor is the Bara Tooti Chowk, but there was a time when he was a biology student in Patna, learning to dissect rats with what he calls mummy-daddy type children.