Obituary - Leela Soma

Leela Soma, Indian/Scottish writer, poet and champion of aspiring writers, sadly passed away in December 2022 after a short but sudden illness.
Leela Soma, who passed away last monthLeela Soma, who passed away last month
Leela Soma, who passed away last month

She was co-founder of Bearsden Writers and a former member of Strathkelvin Writers. She also served on East Dunbartonshire’s Arts and Culture Committee and founded the Kavya Prize for Scottish writers of colour. In 2021 she was Scotland’s national Scriever.

Born in Madras to a family of lawyers, she was educated in a convent by English speaking nuns. It was here she learned her love of literature and in 1969, at the age of 21 she came to live in Scotland with her husband.

Her talents were soon recognised, and she began her career as a teacher in Glasgow in the early 1970s, and latterly as a Principal Teacher of Modern Studies at John St Secondary. She made lifelong friends throughout her teaching career and told wonderful humorous stories of her time spent with her teenage pupils.

After taking early retirement, she began writing novels which provided readers with a fascinating glimpse of Asian/Scots culture.

In Bombay Baby, she explored the trend for invitro fertilisation of babies in India. Her descriptions of modern-day Mumbai’s nightlife were memorable.

Her more recent novel, Murder at the Mela, set in Glasgow, introduced DI Patel, an Asian/Scots detective with a love of poetry.

At a recent literary event, south of the border, she was thrilled by the response of readers, who said her descriptions of Glasgow made them long to visit the city.

Leela was a gifted poet and in the collection, Chinz, she compared Tamil words ‘that are curved and delicious like a mango’ with English words that are ‘clean and practical’.

She explained the origins of words such as ‘pyjamas, seersucker, gingham, calico,’ as Indian, and finally, at the heart of her poetry was the notion that we are only here for a short time, so enjoy the moment, and be kind to each other.

Quoting from Thiruvallar, a Tamil poet she stated: ‘real kindness seeks no return; what can the world return to rain clouds?’

Leela passed away peacefully at home with her daughter and husband. She will be sadly missed by many.