A Tragedy of Manners
By Peter H. Green
Eachempati, Uma (translator), The Power of Love, by Kamaraju Susila, 1915-1998, 242 pages, 2014. First published as Prema Balam, 1983, in the Telugu language.
Today's reader, will find much to appreciate in a current novel’s visit to mid-twentieth-century India. Easy communication, control of one's personal life and the ability to shape one's own destiny, especially for women, were virtually unknown in that country 60 to 70 years ago, even in upper-middle-class society.
Bound by rigid concepts of social status, gender roles, and patriarchy, two families find themselves unable to keep simple promises to care for each other through the difficulties of their lives.
Raja Rao, a businessman, is confronted with honoring a promise to his father when he learns his sister's husband has died. He invites her and her beautiful daughter Malati into his household, stirring up jealousy and his wife’s turf instinct for her protection, and spawning a deep love between Malati and Raja’s medical student son Bhaskar, who are thrown together in the newly combined household.
Jealousy and imaginary hurts on the part of Raja's wife Lalita, the burgeoning love of the young kissing cousins form an explosive mix, bound to result in tragedy.
The Power of Love is a well-written story, sensitively rendered in English by Uma Eachempati, a loving and dedicated daughter of the author. This powerful tale explores what happens when time-honored custom conflicts with modern necessity, human emotion defies social propriety and the subjugation of the female gender suppresses matters of the heart, resulting in disaster. It also offers fascinating insights into the everyday life among India's professional class at the middle of the last century. The book preserves common native language terms but provides a helpful glossary for the reader.
Although the book’s formal style lacks the sweep and urgency of a modern novel, it is in keeping with India’s society of that day. This quick read rewards the short time required with a rapidly advancing plot, surprising twists and a conflict of Shakespearean proportion, where the obstacles to true love, rather than the feuding Montagues and Capulets, are pride, social convention and an imbalance of power between the sexes. The result is tragic, nonetheless, but oh, so proper.
Peter Green, Author of Crimes of Design
& Dad’s War With the United States Marines