How Young Indians are Changing the World
What happens when 100 million young people in India’s small towns and villages suddenly start dreaming big?
Shortlisted for the 2019 New India Foundation Book Prize
A Financial Times Politics Book of the Year 2018, chosen by Gideon Rachman
600 million Indians, more than half the population, are under twenty-five. This generation lives between extremes: more connected and global than ever, but with narrow ideas of Indian identity; raised with the cultural values of their grandparents, but the life goals of American teenagers. These dreamers are the face of a new India. Angry, and frustrated with being marginalised by both globalisation and India’s old politics, they place hope in the Modi government’s exclusionary nationalism and, above all, in their personal truths: shape your own future; exploit, or be exploited.
Journalist Snigdha Poonam tracks these young fortune-seekers — aspiring Bollywood stars and clickbait gurus, the Cow Protection Army hoodlums and Allahabad University’s first female Student Union President — all united by the belief that they were born for bigger and better things. Dreamers brings to life their boundless ambition and extraordinary imagination to create opportunities in the unlikeliest of spaces.
Snigdha Poonam is a writer with the Hindustan Times in Delhi. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times and Granta. Her article 'Lady Singham’s Mission Against Love' was runner-up in the Bodley Head / Financial Times Essay Prize, 2015
‘Wise, timely and, alas, deeply troubling . . . Poonam has a gift for finding the most telling stories of our time and constructs a powerful argument.’ — Financial Times
‘At a time when nationalism and populism in the west and China are getting a lot of attention, this is an important contribution to understanding the 21st century’s other emerging superpower.’ — Financial Times Best Politics Books of 2018, Gideon Rachman
‘A perceptive, useful book on an important topic … Poonam is clear-eyed on the challenges the youth of the Indian population present.’—The Observer
‘[Poonam’s] book offers valuable insights. . . . If young Indians really are changing the world, it may not be for the better.’ — The Economist
‘Poonam is good on the aggressive nationalism of this generation.’ — Times Literary Supplement
‘A superbly reported study of aspirational Indian millennials and one of the best books about Modi’s India to date.’ — The New York Review of Books
‘A brave and unusual debut.’ — New Statesman
‘Timely and accomplished’. — Asian Affairs
‘Dreamers is an eye-opener . . . Poonam has a chatty, engaging style and is non-judgemental about the people she meets. The picture that emerges is of a generation fascinated and inspired by the US but fiercely patriotic.’— The Round Table
‘At a time when India’s population is overwhelmingly youthful, the profiles in this book capture the singing ambition, the energy and wildness of a generation that seeks to break ties with the past, and also the depths of difficulty and despair that hold it back from getting anywhere at all. An accurate if disturbing portrait of a nation in churn.’ — TANK Magazine
‘Diligently reported and crisply written, Dreamers is an eye-opening guide to India’s troubled present — and future. No recent book has so astutely charted the treacherous Indian gap between extravagant illusion and grim reality.’ — Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger: A History of the Present
‘Snigdha Poonam offers an enlightening and powerful examination into the absorbing world of India’s youth, their unique complexities, aspirations, and ambitions in the 21st century. Rich in detail and engagingly crafted, Dreamers is a lively and compelling read.’ — Shashi Tharoor, author of Inglorious Empire
‘A clever, fresh, and honest book about one of the great unknowns – and one of the most important topics – of the developing world: the lives, aspirations, disappointments and achievements of India’s young people.’ — Jason Burke, The Guardian
‘An illuminating and sometimes alarming book.’ — Ian Jack, The Guardian
‘A brilliant dive into the seething psyche of India’s small-town youth: a mayhem of sexuality, sentimentality and insatiable hunger for success — at whatever price. Be afraid…’ –– Sunil Khilnani, Avantha Professor and Director, King’s India Institute, Kings College, London, and author of Incarnations: A History of India in Fifty Lives
‘Dreamers is an intelligent and deeply reported journey into the lives of India’s young people, and the hunger that drives them.’ – The Hindu
‘Dreamers smashes the slick hype that has been constructed around India’s aspiring middle classes, calling our attention to the corruption, frustration, and dashed hopes bubbling beneath the surface. It may be convenient for India’s elites to whitewash these inconvenient truths. But, as Poonam shows, it would also be suicidal.’ — Foreign Affairs