When a story about a Lok Sabha election has a English-speaking matriarch called Amma, a protagonist named Sarojini (Jinni in her work-life) Pande and when others around her are called Munni Aunty and Our Pappu, you realise that you are in Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye land. Not surprising, since the author has drifted into fiction from the advertising world and her ear is trained to pick up new sounds and oddities. Amma’s sibilants and z’s and j’s may be mixed up, as with many first-generation speakers of English, yet her innate dignity rises above them. Chauhan is also good at handling direct speech, where many stumble, investing her characters and situations with a dimension that mere descriptions can never achieve. The plot is racy, with a childhood sweetheart who grows up to become a political rival, a Hindu-Muslim tangle and the slimy greasiness of wheels within deals. There are also many cheesy m&b scenes with raging hormones on the boil.
Through all this, Chauhan manages to legitimise a new vocabulary emerging from the violent collision between Bharat and India that has all the promise of a new lingua franca. This, to my mind, is her true achievement. In the way that Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and A.R. Rahman have brought a whiff of newness into lyrics and jingles, this new language may outrage purists but describes perfectly memorable Indian sense-impressions, such as Bhainscafe, the brew that marries instant coffee with nauseatingly rich buffalo milk.