Things I usually keep to myself

In Sanskrit, leela is a gracious and charming illusion, a subtle transformation of an energy centre. In Hindu mythology, leela is a diversion for the Gods who, when they descend to earth from the heavens, amuse themselves by playing different roles among mortals.

I have been transforming my energy (and been a plaything of the gods) since I was born and the places I have lived all bear interesting allusions and have contributed to who I am today.

My parents are Indians, Malayalees. My father is from Kerala, my mother from Sri Lanka. I was born in Sungei Patani – Sungei, a river, and Patani, a herbaceous vine. Patanians believe that when someone goes to sleep the soul leaves the body and it is dangerous to wake the person lest the soul be lost. So don't wake me up.

I was brought up in Pulau Tikus in Pulau Pinang – the Rat Island district (appropriate, since in Chinese astrology I'm a rat) of Areca Nut Island – more widely known as Penang, Malaysia. After leaving my parent’s home, I moved around widely, from the Flower Town of Tanjong Bugah in Penang to the Fragrant Harbour of Hong Kong, and places in between.

From Flower Town, I moved to Goytre, a small isolated village in South Wales, U.K. The few people who came to Goytre, came for burial at their famous cemetery. In Vietnam, I lived opposite the Presidential Palace, and in 1975 when the North Vietnamese Army took it over, President Thieu left and so did I. Now I live in small village in Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong.

My career has taken me from teaching in Malaysia, to teaching American forces in Vietnam, to being a businesswoman with antique shops and pubs/restaurants.

In December 1999, as the millennium was approaching, a question in a newspaper advertisement challenged me: Why not write? Why not, indeed. So I sold my Prince of Wales Pub after 17 years and began another phase in my life.

I’ll add more to this story but right now I need to move the cat off the keyboard, get a grip on the mouse, and prove that I still have a little discipline, in spite of being just an Illusion.

Read more on my blog at

Home   SCMP Story   BBC Story   Tsunami Diary   Interview   Biography  
Floating Petals   Book Reviews   Book Launch

Copyright 2013 Leela Devi Panikar