Crown of Light is an unforgettable collection of short stories originally written in Telugu (titled “Deepa Sikha”) by Dr. Suseela Somaraju, based on her actual observations and experiences, with some fictional embellishments in the details. The stories are written in first person in a colloquial style that is common to many Telugu works of fiction. The author, like the narrator, is an educated Indian woman who runs/works at a factory in Hyderabad. The stories were masterfully translated into English by Mr. Kharidehal Venkata Rao, who has written several books in both Telugu and English on a variety of topics. Both the author and translator are Telugu Indians who have spent almost the entirety of their lives in Andhra Pradesh, and who are intimately familiar with the distinct ethos and culture of the region.
Crown of Light is a remarkable and irresistible immersion into Telugu culture, and it is as stunningly close to reality as one could ever hope to get in a work of fiction. Any Indian, or any individual acquainted with Hindu Indian culture, will be able to immediately grasp and identify with all of the myriad themes, characters and emotions portrayed in this beautifully rendered collection.
On a broader scale, we see and hear through these stories, the everyday petty squabbles, the profound familial commitments, the envy, the anger, the moral courage, the generosity of spirit, the status seeking and the compassion – above all the compassion that the author feels for the characters. It is indeed the author’s compassion for his characters, combined with his talent for bringing the vibrancy and flavour of the Telugu language and culture so beautifully to life in the starkly different medium of English, that are the ultimate signature on his invitation to the reader.
- William Powell and Surekha Dangoor