Tuesday, October 09, 2012

31: by Upendra Namburi- Review

31 by Upendra Namburi is a pulsating thriller. It has a new twist on an old formula- here the action is in a business setting- a bank. Political machinations here could give the Congress or Machiavelli a run for their money.

Covering a span of 31 days in March, the hectic financial year end, this novel does not dwell on mundane details. On paper, having 31 days described may seem yawn worthy, but the nail biting action keeps the pace taut till the finish.

Professionals will know and identify with the lives described here, the hectic nature of work, the uncertainty and the toll that it takes on family life. There are hiccups- it seems strange that the top brass of a company would not go after a Twitter bigmouth who keeps taking potshots at the firm.

The overuse of exclamation marks, especially in the beginning, before one gets engrossed in the story, is another sticking point. Sometime the financial jargon can get wearing. There are many characters, so keeping track of them is a challenge as well.

Since so much of the action happens on phone and over email, many times the characters seem disembodied. Still, we live Ravi’s life, holding our breath and exhaling a deep sigh of relief with him.

The constant twists and turns get a little repetitive by the end. His efforts to save his position, learn why he is on the firing line and his attempts to find an alternate job give an insight in corporate culture.

Just as Chetan Bhagat’s provided an insider’s view on IIT, this novel gives the reader the flavour of corporate life. What happens after an MBA is not necessarily the happily ever after parents and students imagine it to be.

Savitha, Ravi’s wife is a strong character in her own right. Maithili, Ravi’s colleague, also comes across as dangerous, although in a slightly stereotypical way. She stands out as the lone female representative, in the male world of banking.

The Blackberry is the unsung hero and sometime villain of modern life. Here, too, it plays a pivotal role. When it is switched off important messages are missed, which sharply steer the plot.

The sometimes witty quotes which begin each chapter or day will resonate with the target audience. “I get email, therefore I am.” Dilbert modifies and makes Voltaire’s words contemporary.

 Sometimes you wish the pace would slacken, so that you can relax. Some descriptions, characters chilling out would have helped. But then, is it possible for a corporate soldier to relax these days?

If one wants to read this to escape from one’s life, it may not be the right one if you are a wage slave. Still, the ambiguous but somewhat happy ending will console professionals that there can be a rosy future at least on paper if not in life.

Ironically, the ones who would most identify with this book may not have the time to read it. Unless it was mailed to them, a page at a time, on their Blackberrys…So that they can read it in meetings?

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Monday, October 08, 2012

The Forts

Nahargarh Fort, in yellow, is a cute, compact fort. It was used for the King's army, so the rooms are simple and small.
Jaigarh Fort's main USP is the huge cannon.
It is connected to Amber Fort by tunnel- you can go by golf cart for 100 Rs. per head. Next time.
We went to the tunnel in Amber Fort. We went to the top by jeep. You can also take an elephant. Amber Fort was very crowded but the scale takes your breath away.
Ganesh Pol has exquisite, colorful carvings in the walls and gates. The mirrors in Sheesh Mahal still gleam. The restorers have done a good job. The view of the gardens is enough to take your mind off the heat.
We discovered some snack shops nearby.

College Reunion

A lawn with a pool, dim lights, greenery, aromatic food and drinks, with great company. My first College reunion here was very enjoyable. The icing on the cake was the mince. I saw waiters offering Cafe Mince, vegetarian and non vegetarian. I explained the significance to my husband, thinking that the organizers must have requested Taj to serve mince to revive memories.

Later I discovered that a lady had actually taken the trouble to get mince from College- get it fried in the Taj kitchens. She had frozen the chutney. We all attacked it with relish, savouring that unique taste after so many years.

They say the sense of smell brings back the most intense memories, well I can say that the sense of taste  is not too far behind in this respect.

It was fun meeting an ex senior RAW person, the ex-Ambassador to Brunei, the Chief Warden at Ranthambore among others. Gossiping about teachers with others who had done English took me back a decade. It helped that my batchmate was co-organizing the reunion so I managed to meet many people.

The goody bag- with a Stephanian tie, plate-showpiece, a collection of Kooler Talk and Nostalgia at Stephen's was a surprise.