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Bowling a maiden over

Anuja Chauhan won the toss, innings and match with her wacky funny slice-of-now book, writes Renuka Narayanan.

books Updated: Jul 29, 2008 19:16 IST
Renuka Narayanan

The Zoya Factor
Anuja Chauhan
HARPERCOLLINS
Rs 295 PP 514

The ad girl who wrote catchy lines (remember the late war hero Captain Vikram Batra saying it on Tiger Hill during Kargil?) like ‘Yeh dil maange more!' and ‘Oye, Bubbly!' for fizzy drinks has outed with "something longer than 60 seconds." As a fan of chick lit and an absolute enemy of cricket, I had to reconcile two strong feelings. But Chauhan won the toss, innings and match with her wacky funny slice-of-now book in which Zoya Singh Solanki (in Marketing) gets to meet Nikhil Khoda, the tall, stern, handsome rookie captain of a raw Indian team raving to play the World Cup.

It's got superstition, cricket politics, Hindutva politics and affirmations of the Indian Life: joint families, ishq-vishq, pyaar-vyaar, desi pizza made by Rinku Chachi, a Rajputsoldier brother called Zoravar, fireworks (despite the exploited kids of Sivakasi), even that hugely downmarket raunchy ad for Indian gentlemen's inner wear, the frantic Bollywood songs on cell phones, the morality business of being a liberated but deep-down-inside ‘traditional Indian woman', the whole guy thing - creeps vs heroes – hai, hai, it's all there.

The Hinglish is hilarious, the situations utterly believable. It's as funny and as touching as…as Damon Runyan must have been to Americans, making heroes out of hoods and bums in the Prohibition years in New York.

If there's the slightest unease, it's about how horribly well Chauhan knows the Great Indian Middle Class and its insecurities. You know she's been consuming market research on it for years to conjure the ‘creatives' that will persuade them to buy buy buy But hey, she's one of them too, and it takes guts and energy to write a whole readable, believable novel, especially one that lovingly unsparingly captures all the quirks and foibles of being a modern urban Indian today Page 130 is particularly brilliant.

Buy it guys. Don't turn up your noses just because it's chick lit. Besides making you laugh it might actually make you think. There's a great big message in there and it's all the more wonderful for being delivered so entertainingly instead of in the pages of some preachy tract. As for the cricket, well, if you gotta bowl, you gotta bowl.