Normally, chic-lits are not my style. Often enough, they get so sappy and sweet that I have nightmares of diabetes and evenings spent in a hospital getting dialysis. So what was I doing with a copy of The Zoya Factor on my long haul flight from Pune to Siliguri? You see, it was the vector art on the cover that caught my attention, the willow of the bat framed by sweeping flowery waves.
A 27 year “young” client servicing ad-executive, Zoya Solanki’s greatest dream in life was to work with SRK on a commercial that dictated that he be shirtless. But reality (and a boss who won’t take no for an answer) had other plans. The ICC Champion’s Trophy, Dhaka, Bangladesh; an advertisement shoot for a well known soft-drink giant; the Indian cricket team comprising of a bunch of rookies, with a captain who seems to have been genetically created to inspire lust, rather than the boost morale of his fledgling team, and give Zoya hell. And the sparks fly!
Cut to the predictable chase, and Zoya finds herself in a tight spot with the superstitious and down-on-their-luck youngsters on the team, convinced that she is a lucky charm. Don’t have breakfast with her before the match and the team loses. A kiss on the cheek for the bowler translates to a hat trick on the field; a hug is a guaranteed man-of-the-match award, while a full blown kiss means a century for the lucky batsman. All this because little Zoya Solanki was born at the exact moment when the Indian Cricket Team won the 1983 World Cup.
With the tenth ICC World Cup fast approaching, the desperate IBCC (the imaginary BCCI) convinces Zoya to come along to Australia on an all expense paid holiday, the catch being that she has to attend every breakfast with the team before a match. Soon enough, the cricket crazy nation declares Zoya a Goddess, egged on by the saffron-clad Swamiji, the spiritual adviser to the IBCC, while the other teams declare war. It is here that we find Zoya struggling “valiantly to do her bit for Indian cricket, clashing with the erratically brilliant new skipper, Nikhil Khoda, who tells her flatly that he doesn’t believe in luck.”
Now on to the question of exactly what I was doing with a chic-lit. For once, the love-cricket combo doesn’t lose balance, tipping the book onto only one scale.
Starting off on a surprising and decidedly “Indian” note, with one-liners like “You can take the girl out of Karol Bagh, but you can’t take the Karol Bagh out of the girl”, hitting their marks and leaving you breathless with laughter. The comic capers that Zoya seems to get herself into (both in and outside the boardroom) seem very real and relatable. But this is only in the beginning.
The ease of Chauhan’s chosen words and the relatively unimaginative plot-line begins to slightly wear on one’s bones, because you know exactly what’s going to happen after the ninth chapter. The fresh-off-the-street language doesn’t do enough to gloss over some of the forced climaxes and been-there-read-that clichés. And the fact that Zoya, for all her 27 years of experience, tends to act like a teenager, makes you want shake some sense into her.
The characters themselves seem to be based on a lot of the actual Indian cricket players. Nikhil, the bronzed hunk with the Boost-brown eyes and Zoya, the curly haired, chubby-cheeked, fire-cracker, though very stereotypical, weave a very loveable spell around you; while many of the bordering-on-irreverent observations on the world of advertisement and its big-name clients probably mirror Chauhan’s own experiences.
The one thing that is different about this book is that it is undoubtedly “fun”. The kind of crazy fun where you don’t have to think so much and overanalyze – because, let’s face it; you wouldn’t want that on a book when real life is enough.