Upendra Namburi, author of “31” and “60 Minutes” discusses his fascination with numbers and cooking

The rains last week provided a respite from the dogged heat. The meeting with writer Upendra Namburi, strategist in a leading financial services company, scheduled the next day, which was surprisingly pleasant, turned out to be even better as the author was affable. The venue was Monkey Bar at Vasant Kunj. Housed in a glass pyramid, it provides an excellent view of the skyline.

His latest book “60 minutes” (Westland), a corporate drama with all action unfolding in sixty minutes – mentions “engineer by accident and an MBA by design.” Said Upendra, “that was tongue-in-cheek” and explained that after pursuing one year of B.Sc course, he decided “to become serious” and that is when he opted for the bachelor in engineering in production as it was “multi-disciplinary and provided a wide exposure”. Explaining further, he said it had a “practical flavour” as there was hands-on training in a company for six months.

Moving on, he opted for marketing for his MBA. At present he has over 18 years of experience in different sectors and has established three new businesses and launched over 20 new products and services. A keen debaterin his student days and editor of his college magazine, Upendra candidly admitted, “I knew I had it (writing) in me. The bug was always there.”

The trigger point of his first book “31” (2012) is interesting. The novel deals with how the life of a manager undergoes change when he becomes aware that a number of employees will be issued the dreaded pink slip in the next 31 days. “A close friend informed that he was getting ‘laid-off’ due to the existing economic scenario. This set me thinking as this is a pertinent and important phase which every executive goes through. Just when you are enjoying your job disaster strikes and you are left wondering where will the next EMI come from and how pre-arranged commitments be met,” said the author. He added that the society – the immediate and extended family, friends, relatives, peers – attach a stigma with laying off. “Lay-off is not a reflection of the capabilities and talent of a person. I have a disconnect with this.” In fact, he stated that the mere information that one is on the “hit-list” leads to “insecurity, restlessness and losing of confidence”.

Wanting to eat light, Upendra ordered chilli cheese dragon, a Chinese spring roll stuffed with cheese and seasonal vegetables and pot stickers – Japanese gyoas filled with vegetables with garlic, salt and pepper. Declining starters, he asked for tomato juice served promptly. The author, a vegetarian, loves home-cooked food but eats all types of cuisine, Lebanese and sushi being his favourite. He also loves to eat out once in a while with a Thai outlet being his favourite in Gurgaon.

“I started cooking at the age of eight and it came very naturally to me. Fond of wiping up Andhra food I do try recipes read or watched on television,” said the writer who is not averse to making pasta and spaghetti. When abroad he eats salad, burger, etc though Indian food is available almost everywhere he does not hunt for it in particular.

“I find a distinct similarity between writing and cooking. Both involve creating and the process of creation – simple or complex – is thrilling and that is the beauty,” said the author. Without any reservation Upendra confessed to having a sweet tooth. “I love anything that is sweet and my favourite are pastries and Bengali delicacies.”

With the food materialising, we took a break to enjoy it. Resuming, I could not contain my curiosity about the author using numbers as a book title, incidentally his next novel is “8”. “Day in and day out we are surrounded by numbers whether it is bus route, hard data, statistics, time, et al. We have reached a situation when people decide how much time to spend with their family.” According to him, time has engulfed us and we are grappling with it. One would operate differently if this parameter is taken out of the equation. “We will react, emote, behave and respond if the time-line and deadlines are missing,” he explains.

“I will continue to write fiction by either pursuing topics revolving around numbers or others but will also like to explore non-fiction genre too,” said Upendra. Already working on a play involving two characters from his book “60 Minutes”, he writes whenever he gets time, airport lounges, cabs, “in every dimension of time and space” as he put it.

Coming back to cooking, Upendra revealed that his two-and-a-half son, Yashvardhan, loves to watch his mother cooking after she satisfies his inquisitiveness as to what was being prepared. “I am looking forward to the day when he joins me in the kitchen and we make a big mess!” he said rounding off an enjoyable afternoon.