She was the daughter of Indian father and a French mother, brought up as a blend of the most beautiful of all that was good in the east and the west. Her beauty became her hallmark even when she was a little girl, so inspiring that the well known poet Harindranath Chattopadhyay once exclaimed, "she is just a blossom now, watch her grow and she will be the most beautiful flower in the garden of God." The poet's sister, Kamladevi Chattopadhyay who was a multifaceted personality took pictures of the beautiful girl because she wanted to prove what beauty really meant
She took an early liking for painting and music and the literary works of the great writers of the world. She mastered languages like English, French, German and Italian besides Bengali and Hindi. She had a number of admirers who kept encouraging her to make the best of her beauty. She did not make any conscious efforts but things just happened to her because of her unparalleled beauty
She was literary pushed into joining the Miss India contest in 1960's and it was for the first time the entire jury voted for her as the winner
Her beauty reached its highest peak when Vogue, the magazine for the woman which is still very popular put her on its prestigious cover and she was simultaneously declared as the 10 most beautiful women of the world.
She had many suitors. There were men from different fields, the rich and the famous, but Leela opted for Vicky Oberoi, the son of Ms Oberoi, the man who started as a nobody and finally headed the Oberoi chain of hotels all over the world. It was all well for a while but it was her husband's affair with the bottle that gradually lead to a major rift in their marriage and her husband even died a premature death because of excessive drinking, a character who inspired Prakash Mehra to make a film called "Sharaabi" in which Amitabh Bachchan played the role and was also called Vicky
Her broken marriage however didn't come in her way because she was still the miraculous beauty and it was Ismail Merchant who first charmed her into working in two of his English films, "The Householder" and "The Guru. She then played two leading roles in Hindi films and gave up acting for a long while till she came back as an old but beautiful woman in Shyam Benegal's "Trikal". She was a part of film but kept away from attending parties and premiers and kept away from the gossip press because she was averse to let her private life go public
It was her great love for literature and specially poetry that made her fall in love with the young and talented poet, writer and war correspondent, Dom Moraes, who was the only son of Frank Moraes, first the Editor in Chief of "The Times of India" and then holding the same post at " The Indian Express", the writer who was respected by Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and who later became a major thorn in the way of Nehru's daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi especially when she declared "Emergency" in the country in 1976.
Life with Dom was an exciting experience not only because of his good poetry, but also because of his job as a war correspondent which took him to some of the most remote corners and forest of the world where she joined him and faced the prospect of death every moment of their lives.
Her husband was also a prominent writer on cricket which also made her a follower of the game and she knew all the leading players of the world by their first name and had several at home parties in her house at which she served the best Indian food cooked by herself.
She was happy with life as long as Dom did not take to drinking heavily. Alcohol became her enemy for the second time she managed to live with his alcoholism but when it became unbearable they had some of the most bitter fights which finally ended in their going away from each other. Dom added insult to her misery when he openly fell for a rich married woman called Sarayu Doshi and finally walked out with her, living her alone in her large house. They were divorced when they had crossed 65.
Leela had a great liking for antiques, artifacts and paintings and a very rich collection which formed a very exquisite part of her apartment in a heritage building in a quiet corner of Colaba.
Leela was always a great hostess to anyone who came home, she took special care and played a fairy God mother to struggling poets, writers and painters who could walk into her house at any time and be assured of the best food, the best drinks and the inspiration they needed to carry on good work
It was her break up with Dom that finally led her to what was later to be called the cruel plan of destiny for her. She hardly came out of her house. She stayed alone in her own room and had her own dedicated domestic helps who took great care of their "madam"
A time came when she stopped communicating or corresponding with anyone, even with her own daughter and other member of family and close friends.
She once had plans to build some kind of a "house" for all kinds of young artist who lived from hand to mouth, living a miserable life because they could not make any compromises, but her dream now lies incomplete
The best comment after her death came from someone who had seen her in all her glory who said, "the flames are ignorant and so is death, they do not know that a beauty like Leela Naidu could never be cremated forever and would live on because even death could not take her beauty away.