Reviewed by Carolyn
Not many books are placed in the beautifully gilded Chinese Antique cupboard in the hallway of my heritage house. The cupboard has a special lock on it. Only I have the key. Every once in a while I open the cupboard and read passages from the several books that lay between other treasures of photos, old wedding memorabilia, feathers and rocks collected from my favourite holiday spots or gathered from houses of dearly missed grandparents long gone. The book, Floating Petals by Leela Devi Panikar is one of the buried treasures kept in my special cupboard.
Floating Petals is a book of short stories. The stories are written with masterful genius, simple and elegant, yet imbued with hidden, sometimes shocking meanings that strike to the foundation of human existence. Most stories are set in exotic far-flung lands in the Far East, such as Penang, Hong Kong and India. Scenes, some from a bygone era, some contemporary are always peppered with vivid and lively culture of some intoxicatingly beautiful place.
Leela is able to lift the veil of ignorance and teach us about how the taboos of suicide, murder and slavery can be understood from a uniquely Asian perspective. The stories are moral reminders, references for future encounters of how beautiful, terrifying or tragic life is. Some stories are so haunting that there are constant reminders in everyday life.
It does not surprise me in the least that Leela Devi Panikar has won the 200 word writing competition from BBC World, and as Peter Kemp, fiction editor of the UKSunday Times said: "The best of a very, very good bunch of entries."