Author : Upendra Namburi
Publisher : Westland
31, a corporate thriller, deals with a contemporary subject of restructuring and layoffs and has an unique narrative style, with one chapter for each of the 31 days in the month of March. It reveals the ruthlessly cut-throat world of the banking industry, but also its humour, quirks and strange camaraderie.
It is the story of Ravi Shastry, a regional head at Imperial, a multinational Bank. The month of March starts off on a positive note and he seems set for a promotion to the Head Office in Mumbai or possibly even an international assignment. However the next 31 days will change his life forever…
The collapse in Imperial’s Brazilian subsidiary triggers an upheaval within the bank as thousands are laid off across the globe. A restructuring is advocated in the Indian operations and to make matters worse, it becomes clear that a firing list will be released on 31st March which could cull a large portion of the Indian employee base. In such a state of cataclysm, battle lines are drawn, bizarre alliances of convenience are formed and conspiracies are hatched as employees struggle to ensure their name is not on the dreaded list. Ravi sees his friendships dissolving, his help lines disappearing and his reputation withering. He finds himself in a quagmire of deceit, lies and subterfuge.
In a perverted twist of fate, his wife Savitha discovers that her job is also on the line! A series of personal and financial debacles amidst social ignominy pushes Ravi to the verge of insanity. He has been a stellar performer and a fast riser. This is unchartered territory that challenges his principles and demands political acumen. Will he find himself compromising his principles to emerge victorious? Will he keep his family together by 31st March? Will he have a job on 31st March?
Nambudri has managed to create a suitably claustrophobic environment where he throttles his poor protagonist, slowly turning the screw on him by hitting him with one problem after another. This is commendable when you realize that most of the characters actually converse through emails, phone conversations and BB instant messages. Every one is on the run, everyone is saving their ass and it is difficult in such a situation to find out who is your true friend or enemy. The dialogues are fast paced and as action happens mostly in closed spaces, you are bound to feel the urgency and anxiety the characters are going through in their life.
The writing is lucid and the conversations are real. If you don’t like numbers, you may find this book a bit hard to pull through, as there’s a good amount of talk related to the financial number crunching. The climax in intentionally keep opened for a possible sequel and that's where i felt let down. There is a strong tendency these days in Indian fiction to have trilogies made out and this is one of those books where it just does not make sense to have a sequel. Me, as a reader definitely wanted a closure.
I am going with 3.5/5 for Upendra Namburi's '31'. Fast paced and well edited, it is one of those rare corporate thrillers which will make you turn pages with alarming rate. Read it in one go, it will make for even more pleasurable experience.