Photography: Ravi Choudhary
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your growing up years and how and when did your interest with the written word begin?
I grew up in small towns of Bihar and Jharkhand, my family constantly moving from one posting of my father’s to another, often to places with without stable electricity supply, so I had a lot of time to kill and lot of books and magazines around me-- my parents are obsessive readers-- therefore the interest with the written word. I never wanted to write a book, however. All I ever wanted was to write magazine features-- I loved how much you could include in 2000 words if you knew how to write.
You have been a journalist for a while now-- what has been the most challenging thing and the most gratifying?
The most challenging thing is to not appear bored while people go off on the longest tangents in response to the shortest questions. The most gratifying thing is when hours of listening to people ramble produces that one quote that makes a headline.
What inspired your debut book, Dreamers: How Young India Are Changing their World?
I have been reporting since 2009 stories about young Indians’ attempts to make sense of a world rapidly changing around them. I sat in “personality development” classes in Delhi where young men from villages in Haryana and Rajasthan learnt how to present themselves. I spent nights chatting to men in distant corners of the country – from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh to Salem in Tamil Nadu – on the first Internet dating website to try the Indian market. I spent days reading self-published novels in which young Indians who had made the journey of self-discovery through jobs, places and relationships addressed other young Indians about to undertake it. The more I talked to young people in distant corners of the country, the more I felt the need to go closer. In mid 2014 I began travelling to small towns and villages to find out what young Indians want, how they intend to get there, and how their dreams will change their world and ours.
What do India’s millennials want?
How did you decide on your subject and stories and the structure of the Book?
The book covers the journeys of six young Indians in small towns and villages as they chase their dreams of becoming rich, powerful and famous– media mogul, motivational speaker, elected politician, Bollywood star… It begins with warm, hopeful stories and ends with dark, scary stories.
What did you take away from all the research that you did for the book?
If I had to boil down the philosophy of young Indians today to two words, it would be: whatever works. Most young Indians in the book cheat their way to their dreams, but they didn’t see how they were different from public figures—politicians, bussinessmen, celebrities.
Lastly are you a dreamer and if yes what are your dreams made of?
I am totally a dreamer. I could do with some money and fame myself