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Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing Their World

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  440 ratings  ·  79 reviews
More than half of India is under the age of twenty-five and the country is set to have the youngest population in the world by 2021. But India's millennials are nothing like their counterparts in the West.

In a world that's marked by unprecedented connectivity and technological advancement, in a country that's increasingly characterized by ambition, political power and acce
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published by Viking (first published January 25th 2018)
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Pramod Biligiri
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Dreamers” is a riveting and disturbing read. Author and journalist Snigdha Poonam has spent considerable time with young Indians in the country’s small towns and documented their hopes, fears and frustrations through a series of intimate personality profiles. The book is a bit thin on analysis and also errs by relying too much on the subjects’ own versions of their lives, but its flaws are more than compensated for by Poonam’s compelling narration which lends a tense, documentary like touch to ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a must-read for anyone curious about India's demographic 'dividend' and the manifestation of the full-blown jobs crisis we are in. Excellent reportage and faithful character portraits interspersed with context on the times we're living in. The choice of following individuals and understanding their stories is the perfect format to understand the desperation and anxiety of the youth in the hinterland.

India's jobs crisis may be viewed as an economic event for analysis, but the manife
Kamila Kunda
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, india, own, asia
Snigdha Poonam set out on an ambitious project - she wanted to find out what young Indians dream of, do, aspire to and simply what they are like. In India youth is categorised as anyone at the age 15-34, which comprises over one third of the population. Writing a book about half a billion people is a challenge and it’s clear the task overwhelmed Poonam. “Dreamers. How Young Indians Are Changing Their World” is truly about only a handful of Indians, mainly men, in a very small area of the country ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great narrative with lots of work and heart gone into it, this book is in turns illuminating, heartbreaking, funny, often deeply unsettling. Very glad that I read this and that this was written. India is a big country; to get to hear the voices, stories, and perspectives of people who may appear out of touch with my everyday, just like I am out of touch with theirs, but who reflect and mirror back societal messages and even internal struggles I have had to face growing up in small-town India.. ...more
Katia N
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I think that that the countries which are used to be called BRICs are not trying to catch up with the West. They are ahead of it in social and political terms, albeit on the trajectory which i would not call highly desirable. Russia is driven by simulacrum. For better reference see Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia. Ukraine has just elected the president, a comedian, whose only previous political exposure was playing a role of the teacher i ...more
Avinash Agarwal
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started the book with not much expectations but into the fourth page and I was hooked to the narrative till the end. This is a book about the youth of the country, their ambition, anger and the never say die spirit of making big in this world. The author takes us into the lives of six individuals with age range between 18 to 29 years, how they are trying to achieve their goals in life. Each individual chart their own path to success but all of them share similar angst, frustration and burning ...more
Venkatarangan Thirumalai
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
As an Indian in my forties, today’s India baffles me – it is not the politics (that’s always confusing) but what drives it? When I was growing up, things were simple, I was excited by Rakesh Sharma going in space – I and my schoolmates dreamed of an India that will be a superpower in space missions. Our school textbooks were still resonating with Nehru’s Panchsheel, Patriotism & Victory over Pakistan in the wars we had fought with them, the ill effects of illiteracy and population. The to-do lis ...more
David Sasaki
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book much more than Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

I read this while in India for work earlier this year. I first traveled to India in 1999 and then again in 2001, '06, '09, and '14. With the exception of the United States, Mexico and perhaps Kenya, it is the country whose (extremely rapid) development I’ve followed most closely and first-hand. Unlike the other three countries, I have spent weeks at at a time in India’s rural, remote villages, where daily routines
Meera Nair
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Snigdha Poonam’s Dreamers brings to light the struggles and aspirations of the Indian youth. In a society that is brimming with job seekers, the paucity of employment propels these young Indians into doing whatever it takes to make ends meet. Filled with political stances and the desire to break through the gateway of modernism, this book brings to us the stories of individuals who refuse to back down.

When I heard about this book, I had a slightly different picture in mind; one of a dramatized v
Anirudh Jain
Oct 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This book shows a part of India that I could have never imagined. In the underbelly of the MNC and IT parks lives an India who gets their identity from scamming people in America, lives an India whose sense of identity is protecting cows and unleashing violence on valentines day. It is interesting to how young India is crafting an identity when they are hanging between the RSS adages and Netflix's media.
Singidha tells the story of few characters who have tapped into this young india and using i
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This has been one of the best books I've read in 2018. It features a cast of North Indian grifters, enthusiasts, con victims, con artists, and plain thugs. It makes you despair at times, but politically it filled me with hope.

Why you ask? Because currently the political situation in the country is such that it feels like we are under daily assault from violent evil. And while Snigdha Poonam agrees that we are under assault, her reporting shows that the people doing the assault are not Darth Sidi
Nirav Mehta
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a story of the dreams and aspirations of the semi-urban and rural youth in North India, narrated through the prism of stories of 7-8 individuals, who the author has diligently followed for a few years. It covers their journey, their plans, and the harsh ground realities that lie in front of them, to which they are seemingly oblivious.

The author does a good job in bringing out the challenges faced by the youth in today's age and the various factors that push and pull them. At no point did
Nallasivan V.
Dec 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A sneak-peek into small-town Central India told as a series of biographies of young men and women. I most enjoyed the life of Richa Singh (now in UP's SP party) and her exploits in the Allahabad University. I wish there were more stories about women and other minority groups. Still a very informative look into the mostly upper-caste small-town young men who have driven the political agenda of central India in the last decade. ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
i don't think i have words enough to explain what an important read this is.

the author has managed to track down several "young indians" (men mostly) and she uses each person's story to shed light on the state of contemporary india, the greyness of it, how 'success' is defined in a country so diverse and afflicted.

from scam call centres to the grave reality of showbiz in india to women trying to create a space for themselves in a male-dominated economy - the experiences are diverse, but not all-
Hansda Shekhar
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The stories are insightful and told in an engrossing way, but what is also - if not more - interesting is the work that the author put in - including surviving a bomb explosion! - to find and write these stories. Also, the humour. There is a part about the author interviewing for a job four times! I loved this book. Here is my longer review published in The Bengal Story: ...more
Shreedhar Manek
India's got a burgeoning young population, and there's not enough to do for them. This is an "it is known" fact. Snigdha Poonam tells us the stories of some of these young Indians who are navigating a space that clearly doesn't fit them. They do so often not only out of a compulsion, but a vision for what they want for themselves. They aren't exceptional in who they are, but try their best in being so in what they do.

Dreamers was a good, lucid peace of journalism. Poonam clearly maintained years
Serene Kasim
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've never had so many different emotions reading a book. It made me appreciate just how lucky I am and the people I know are and how privileged. It also made me fear for the future at which these young people are looking. I wish though that she had also covered the south. Only because I would have liked to have known if the conditions are vastly different or incredibly similar. ...more
Kunal Sharma
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The largest democracy's economy has been increasing quite well in the last few years. Creating jobs, but the job creation has been unable to cope up with the growing population. Almost half of the population is considered to be young and the young Indians, in turn, have become dreamers.

Every individual has a different dream just like their fingerprints and the urge to make money, name or both is slowly changing the way we live in the society. Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World de
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book. It's arguably the most relevant and insightful thing to have been written about contemporary Indian politics. Snigdha Poonam's observations are razor-sharp, and she mixes details of her interviews with a narrative of structural transformation and political change.

I knew that there were broadly two elements to Modi's popularity. I'd classified them as economic (jobs, development, "vikaas") and cultural (Hindutva, cows, tradition). I even believed that these two motivatio
Shantanu Gharpure
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Read a book after a long hiatus of four odd months and what an interesting read this has been. After living and traveling in rural India, I understood that in a post Jio India, rural India is more aspirational than ever. But I always had a nagging feeling that I haven't really been able to understand the pulse of India's youth. This book has been an eye opener of sorts. Snigdha has wonderfully narrated different stories of aspiring young individuals from small towns and rural North India.

My only
Umesh Kesavan
"They can't go any further, they have nothing to go back to, so they will remain suspended between reality and their dreams. It's like flying into outer space without a return plan : No matter where you end up, the sun still shines brighter and the stars are at your fingertips".

From Gau-Rakshaks to aspiring politicians, Mr.Jharkhand who wants to be Mr.India to BPO scammers, the diverse spectrum of characters the author has interacted with throws some light on how the young India is coming to ter
Sanjeev Rao
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dreamers is a fascinating account of how India is shaping up outside of the big cities we know and understand well, told through the stories of 7-8 young people trying to make it big for themselves. The stories are tightly written and do a great job at explaining both the role of the internet powered technological shift and the political context playing out at the time. The only thing I found missing was a slightly higher level view on what all this means for India and where we're headed - what ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The sheer number of young Indians looking for economic & social assimilation is of historic proportions - unfortunately existing opportunities & the immediate future look quite bleak - this book touches upon this topic by following a few such young 20 somethings, mostly from a couple of states in India (so definitely doesn't justify the title Young "Indians"). I felt the book was very narrow in the way it addressed the topic with such a wide scope & the connection with the key characters, for me ...more
Santhoshi Srilaya
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dreamers is a very important and disturbing read. It made me realize how priviliged I am, and that the bubble I live in, is very small. The young minds of this country are living a very different reality, each on their own. They are both entitled and hopeless at the same time. And for a country, which is seeing the largest young population of the world, our optimistic expectations are very different from the exisiting reality. It's great reporting and writing of stories that should be heard. Gla ...more
Rahul  Adusumilli
"He’d rented a small room with two young men from Uttar Pradesh who were trying to break into playback singing." Pardon the attitude bequeathed by my seat at the high table of snobbery but was the challenge to define the eighth circle of hell?

If you loathed La La Land for its cheery portrayal of strivers and didn't understand the hype one bit, this book might be the one for you. If that movie was a technicolor fantasy dreamt up in the true style of California, this book is a technicolor nightmar
Abhishek Poojary
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked a very wrong time to read dreamers.

After reading amusing ourselves to death, I was primed with the awareness of how all media has become entertainment oriented in today’s age.

After this, I start reading dreamers and the first chapter features an indore based ‘content-farm’ called wittyfeed. It is a viral content generator, second only to buzzfeed in audience reach. It spews out click baity content - the kind of information that is of no use to the consumer, only good for momentary emoti
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book ‘Dreamers’ is an account of aspirations, anxieties, & anger of India’s youth outside its metro cities. Snigdha Poonam, the author has spent 3 years traveling to Ranchi, Allahabad, Indore & few other towns, interacting with youth & tracking their lives. These are the youth with diverse interests & aspirations; from running spoken English classes to scam call centers, Government fixers to Gau Rakshaks. She profiles these youth while analyzing the gap between their aspirations and reality. ...more
Nihit Parikh
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is very special to me as it was gifted to me on my Birthday by my friend. This turned out to be the first book I completed reading in 2020.

The book revolves around some unusual inspirational stories that evolved from a single dream of ambition. The first chapter starts with the evolving of WittyFeed as a venture from the city of Indore and how it disrupted the market. It introduces to us the character of Mr. Vinay Singhal, whose end goal is to run a country, and alongside running the
Saurabh Sharma
Dreamers is a story of, as the writer said, "The first person you'll meet in any North-Indian city, male, ambitious, upper caste, and from a middle- or higher-income group." India has a demographic advantage, everyone says, but Snigdha identifies how that's not an accurate interpretation. Here, it's all about "power," "money," and "izzat." Each one of us is craving for that, and that too, to achieve it in a jiffy.

In this book, you'll find the story of ambitious entrepreneurs who desire to becom
Megha Sharma
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Hungry. If there is one word I can use for the youth today in India. it is this very basic humanly instinct which is intensified.

Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam, an acclaimed journalist is the compilation of stories of seven individuals growing up in the small town, the tier two cities of India, who have embarked on their journeys of conquering their dreams. While some fulfil their dreams, other woke up to the jolt of the reality.

Having picked up this book three hours after its release, I must say, I
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Snigdha Poonam is a national affairs writer with The Hindustan Times in Delhi. Her work has appeared in Scroll, The Caravan, The Times of India, The New York Times, The Guardian, Granta, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and The Financial Times. Her article 'Lady Singham’s Mission Against Love' was runner-up in the Bodley Head / Financial Times Essay Prize, 2015. She won the 2017 Journalist of Change ...more

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