Zero Percentile 2.0 (ZP2) is sequel to Zero Percentile written by Neeraj Chibba that was published by Rupa in 2010. The characters in Zero Percentile have grown up and stepped into big, wild world of corporate business.
ZP2 is set up in Gurgaon, a colossal noveau center of India’s IT hub. This is where two best friends, Motu and Pankaj, set up an IT business together. They begin well, bagging crucial first, big contracts until the past intervenes. Friends separate and businesses are divided. But there’s more. Their closest friends and business associates are forced to choose amongst them. A wife and a mother have to decide the side they are one. ZP2 is story of these friends who strive to survive in cut- throat world of software industry, where a bigger shark is always ready to gobble up the smaller ones. And the lines between friends and foe aren’t always visible.
Each character in ZP2 has his/her unique personal problem – they juggle this beside their demanding jobs where they are fighting against a hostile takeover. The book is divided into three parts – the first where a small but robust IT company is facing a threat from a mysterious source, the second the flashback where all friendship and closely-knit relationships are revealed and third where culmination takes place.
The story in ZP2 moves pretty fast, therefore, you do not mind it when you see blatant filmy moments like a helicopter ride to Haryana and ensuing mutual admiration in the conversation between pilot and the passenger. Or how the husband and wife bond with each other over an anonymous chat online. (I can’t recall but there is a movie like that by Revathy). You are still engaged because so much is always happening. Every time Taj was mentioned, I expected a reminder of past tragedy and I was right it does weave one of ZP2 characters.
And yet you do not mind any of its small predictabilities, because ZP2 has a heart. It is never judgemental of its characters and refuses to pander to traditional righteousness. For example, It doesn’t judge a mother harshly when she is unable to shower her love unconditionally at her offspring who she considers as her failure. Neither does it judge a person for ambition.
It also carries forward the story of Nitin from Zero Percentile; Nitin is the guy with AIDS. It stands up for his right to have privacy and live with dignity. Nitin’s story reminds me of true story of Dr. Tokugha of Nagaland who sued the hospital for making his HIV status public. Ironically, the court case only ensured that his HIV status was a newspaper headline. To me on this story, focus was not how Dr. Toku might have got AIDS, but rather his right to live with dignity and love. (Believe me, he finds both in real life). I am not aware if Neeraj has read the story of Dr. Toku but that is exactly what he has focussed on in ZP2 – the right of an AIDS patient to live with dignity. Nitin for me is brave, fictional version of Dr. Toku.
I happened to read another book Aftertaste by Nandita Devidayal a day after reading ZP2. Aftertaste is also a story of Marwari family of business class, who run a mithai business. While Aftertaste is so deliciously salacious and wicked, ZP2 manages to retain tenderness and warmth even with such a competitive setting. I suggest reading both the books for their realistic and unique narrative in world of Indian business and subtle differences that both books throw upon.