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Beauty Through Inner Strength

Kartik Bajoria

By Leela Naidu with Jerry Pinto
Penguin Viking, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 180, Rs. 450.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 12 December 2010

Poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran noted, Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart Leela: A Patchwork Life, among other things, reveals precisely this. Radiant, ethereal, stunning, Leela Naidu was the purveyor of beauty for a generation of Indians and foreigners alike. With her sublime smile and feline elegance, she captured the imagination of every man and played muse to some of the worlds greatest artists. Her beauty was immaculate, and did not need Vogue magazine to focus attention. It was however her inner beauty, the magnanimity of her being that only a few were privy to; that has now been revealed to the world, through A Patchwork Life. Conventional wisdom would conclude that Leela Naidu, the privileged offspring of renowned scientist father Dr. Ramaiah and imminent Swiss-French journalist Marthe, would fall prey to the pressures of an illustrious parentage. But as one reads Leela, one gets the distinct sense that the real Leela Naidu, was in fact, the sum total of a shared and poignant value system. She imbibed an egalitarian sense of right and wrong, perhaps from aunt Sarojini Naidu. A passion for the arts, from both her encouraging parents. Leela then, was quite simply, a beautiful, whole person. One that possessed the myriad facets that any real human being does. A fair share of talents and strengths, and her full part of demons to grapple with, not the least of which seem to be her longing for her two estranged daughters. To label Leela Naidu as an actress would be too limiting a tag for this wonderfully talented lady. Mysterious as she seemed, to say she was reclusive would be a gross exaggeration of someone who was rather a free spirit. Leela Naidu was a complex yet simple woman, who embodied the rights and wrongs that we all have, albeit in differing measures. Her love and passion for the arts and music shaped her self-image; her humility, and the soft ease with which she dismissed her extravagant beauty, is very attractive in itself. And that she constantly stood up for the equality of rights and human dignity, leaves a lasting impression, rendering Leela in the most endearing terms! Aside from Leelas many personal qualities, whats utterly fascinating is the encounters that she chronicles in the book. In typical Leela nonchalance, she takes us on a journey that straddles both geographies as well ...

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