Ashraf’s obsession with azadi has a flip side, akelapan — loneliness. Friendships are treacherous in Delhi, and he longs for his childhood friends in Patna, “a group that woke up together, skipped class together” and felt hungry, happy, depressed in “perfect synchronicity.” But on a good day, he can frame his isolation as a blessing. “Today I can be in Delhi,” Ashraf says. “Tomorrow I could well be in a train halfway across the country; the day after, I can return. This is a freedom that comes only from solitude.” Ashraf isn’t meant to represent an entire people. And he isn’t drawn to shame the reader into sympathy, either. His contradictions and three-dimensionality are hallmarks of honest reporting on the marginalized. Ashraf is not a poor man; he’s a man who happens to be poor. This distinction gives his character nuance and his world complexity.
more from Sonia Faleiro at the NY Times here.