Anuja Chauhan, the woman behind unforgettable lines like “Yeh Dil Maange More” and “Oye Bubbly”, has surely stirred all the ingredients of an entertaining masala chick-lit in her debut novel, The Zoya Factor.
The story begins by introducing us to Zoya Singh Solanki, a mid-level advertising executive, who obsesses about being ‘cool’, but enjoys living in the very ‘uncool’ Karol Bagh in New Delhi. She loves her job, even though it pays her peanuts, and doesn’t care much about cricket.
The nucleus, which the story revolves around, is the fact that Zoya was born the very second India lifted the World Cup in 1983. A chance trip to Dhaka results in the players realizing that they can’t ever loose a match after breakfasting with the ‘lucky’ girl.
Zoya is constantly at loggerheads with the brilliant and bronzed new skipper, Nikhil Khoda, who never fails to iterate that he doesn’t believe in luck, “lady” or otherwise.
The Cricket Control Board insist on Zoya accompanying the team to the World Cup 2011, and that’s where we are acquainted with the fragile ego’s, decision politics and cricket madness as real as it gets.
Anuja Chauhan has succeeded in giving us a detailed behind the scenes insight into the world of advertising and the frenzy during a World Cup. The matches in the book are also very well written, and one can feel the excitement throughout. Cricket as it is in India, is no less than a religion; no wonder Zoya, the ‘lucky charm’, is soon elevated to a Goddess status.
One of the few things that spring to mind when I talk about “The Zoya Factor” is the incredible ease with which the writer flows from scene to scene. The witty one liners in ‘hinglish’ and the no-frills dialogues are what make the reader laugh a lot and make the book an entertaining page-turner.
The illustrative description of the varied characters, like the hairy opener, the fast bowler from a small town, who is oblivious to his own appeal, the erratic Swamiji, the powerful board president with his favorite snooty player, the injured and intelligent army man (Zoya’s brother) and the many others, adds color and flavor to a potpourri of humor, superstition and cricket.
My favorite and most charming moment from the book is when Nikhil gets a gold charm bracelet as a present for Zoya, from New Zealand.
‘I can tell,’ she says. ‘See, this one really cute sheep has New Zealand tattooed on its bum.’
‘Its what?’ He asked startled.
‘NZ,’ she said a little more loudly, holding up the sheep for him to see. But even as I did so, a new and thrilling possibility popped into my mind. ‘Oh,’ she said faintly, and then shut up.
Zoya’s feigned innocence and Nikhil’s sweet surprise is very endearing to picture.
The Zoya Factor is Mills and Boon meets cricket, as is evident from the book cover with a lipstick smack on a cricket bat, and does not disappoint, with a perfect blend of romance and humour. I’d say, entertainment 100%