In our country of a billion-plus, it is a known secret that the game of cricket is like religion. And the men who play it are considered no less than demigods. Sometimes, even more.
In debutante novelist Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor, the Men in Blue playing this gentleman’s game are more or less all demigods, out to thrash the Aussies on their home ground in the World Cup in the year 2020.
They are also boys, out to become men once they win the World Cup. That is, if they get to win it.
Helping them in their quest for victory is protagonist Zoya Singh Solanki, an advertising executive who is deputed to work with Team India on a 20-second ad shoot.
However, the 27-year-old from Karol Bagh ends up being the lucky mascot for the team as the young team notices a inevitable victory pattern during her presence at breakfast on match days. And her date of birth, June 25, 1983 – the day Kapil and his Devils created history – only adds to her mystic value.
Overnight, Zoya attains cult-like status and the Cricket Board makes sure she goes places, literally, so that victory comes home.
An out-and-out chick-lit, the characters are inspired heavily by Team India.
From skipper Nikhil Khoda’s brown ‘toffee’ skin, Boost ads, small-town roots inspired by M S Dhoni to hawkish agents who try and sneak in as many endorsements as possible between matches, The Zoya Factor has much light stuff to offer for all cricket fans.
Anuja, the brains behind ' Mera number kab ayega', 'Yeh dil maange more', 'Nothing official about it' and 'Oye Bubbly' campaigns, has used Hinglish phrases generously, driving home the point that the message is the medium.
Humour is the backbone. And her real-life experiences during her advertising stint find their way in here seamlessly:
I obsess a little about being ‘cool’, because hello, when people ask me where I stay I have to look them in the eye, smile brightly and say ‘Karol Bagh’ with casual unconcern. Which is agony in advertising because when all the snooty ad people think Karol-Bagh-type, they imagine a pushy wannabe in a chamkeela salwar-kameez with everything matching-matching. Someone who says ‘anyways’ instead of anyway, ‘grands’ instead of grand and ‘butts’ instead of butt. (As in: She has no butts, earns twenty grands a month and lives in Karol Bagh. Who does she think she is, anyways?)
An easy read, The Zoya Factor starts off very well. There are moments of pure magic in this 509-pager. If humour is sometimes obtuse, the romance is typically Mills&Boon-esque in order to make up for the former.
Somewhere, in between, The Zoya Factor tries to bowl too many googlies and love at silly point takes longer than expected to consummate.
If you are flying from Delhi to Mumbai, go for it! I did, and had some butterflies-in-my-stomach moments when I descended on the ground after flying high...
Price: Rs 295