Happy New Year 2020

The 2010’s has been for me, a decade of rearing my children:

Of little sleep, of running after them as toddlers, of driving them to and from school, of negotiating homework and activities.

It marks a full decade living in Asia, from the New Years celebrations in Hong Kong after the birth of our babies, then back to Chengdu, and then on to our little island of Koh Samui.

2020 marks 2 decades of our couple, our partnership growing in depth and understanding, one that trusts that love is at the core of it all. Both of us developing our own independence all the while knowing we have each other to lean on.

We’ve been challenged by my mental health instabilities, by Maher’s second stroke, by some mistakes with friendships, and the transition of moving from managing babies and little kids to what seem to be more independent ones.

The interesting work with the children is just beginning – the discussions, the possible challenges of the years leading to more boundary pushing, to rebellion, girlfriends and boyfriends, and experimenting.

We’ve visited many beautiful places in the world, spent memorable times with family and friends, and developed a home and meaningful friendships in Thailand.

The next decade is going to focus on keeping our health both physical and mental in balance, that of ours as we age, and of our children’s mental and emotional well-being as they dive deeper into the internet, gaming, videos, and virtual worlds we live in.

There will be focus on our couple, and on us as individuals pursuing our own projects and health goals.

There will be travel and discovery of new lands and people near and far.

There will be the magic of delving into stories, of writing, dancing, the focus of creating, the joy and pride in seeing our sports complex grow, function, and flourish.

There will be more alone time for us as a couple, and as a family, escapes, adventures, more personal successes and certainly some failures too.

And whether or not any of the above happens there will be be madness, dreams, surprise, and love.

And I wish the same for you.

To My Zambian Friends

It is a self imposed exile I live

I magically hide

And protect myself

From feelings of deep love,

Of memories gone by,

How do I say goodbye

To this land and its people

That I know and love deeply:

The white toothy smiles

The majestic trees

Lining endless skies,

The powerful energy in the red roads

Dividing the thick bush

Making way for us,


As we spread puffs of fairy dust

There is an immediate,

deep knowing

The moment we step foot on this land,

All the while being an outsider;

So I write, I share with you

My friends who know,

Who feel the same way

You are the ones who carry

The same Zambian heart,

Some of us

have had the opportunity to leave,

And some to even come back and share,

We’ve explored and encountered

The world and it’s people,

Its different ideas and ways,

Varied ways of life,

Freedoms of self expression

that we don’t always

have the privilege of living openly here,

So here we are today

As we continue our lives,


yet connected by our love

All of us growing older,

Together facing the natural course

of the impermanence of our stories

Tattoos and Red Hair

To change something,

To step out of the comfort zone;

as simple as a change in hair style,

hair color,

or to get that piercing,

or even that tattoo.

Albeit, oftentimes impulsively

Because that voice,

That of the well meaning parent, the teacher,

The coach

That voice that controls,

That asks to conform,

That feels comfort in saying NO,

Will pop up in our heads if action isn’t taken immediately

Why the need for a change

of identity?

Enjoying the double take from

strangers perhaps?

To curb a boredom that sets in from routine?

Yes it might only be a little, sometimes even invisible change in physical, outward appearance,

Yet it is a transition

It has the the power to impact internally,

It is an expression of individuality

A kind of “teenage” rebellion perhaps.

It’s about having freedom

Over our own bodies

Sometimes it takes the obedient child

A whole lifetime to move past that little voice.

And then another,

To become less reactive,

To become more authentic

Expressing the self


At ease with the tattoos and red hair!

The Bird and her Guide

With a thud, the little bird fell.

The glass remained intact.

The bird was stunned.

He approached her with all his compassion,

Wrapped her in a soft, beige towel

And held her close to his softly beating heart.

He stayed that way for a few minutes as she came to;


She, unaware of what was going on,

squirmed around.

He, instinctively loosened his grip

Spreading his pink fingers apart just a little bit.

She moved one wing,

then the other

She seemed to be testing her abilities.

He, the true guide, gave her more room

Enough for her to express herself

but not too much

Not to scare her of her own freedom.

He navigated the space with her

gradually moving her to a more open area.

He gave her a little lift

And off she flew,


Loving herself

Free and Grateful

“Wounded Bird” by Tatiana Nega

Minecraft Intrigues Me

Some conversation while walking in the national park in Penang yesterday:

We see bamboo

Rahul: Mum, in Minecraft it’s so easy to grow bamboo!

Me, laughing: In real life too!

R: You know there’s a new Minecraft, very expensive, that uses google maps and you can build wherever you go.

Me: Really?! Wow, that’s amazing.

R : Come on Leila, hurry up.

Me: There’s no hurry, we have no where else to be. Meditate Rahul!

R, really frustrated: Meditating is the worst thing on earth!

R: You know now in Minecraft there are about 12-16 trees. Before there was only oak.


At a restaurant today:

L: Mum, do you get undrunk if you drink tea?

R: No, milk can make you undrunk.

Me: Ah come on you guys, milk doesn’t work.

L: That’s in Minecraft Rahul!

R: Yeah, and you have to milk the cow to get milk.

Me: Do people get drunk in Minecraft??!!!!!

L: It’s more like magical potions….

Roots, Roots, Roots….


Deeply grounded,

Growing out and over each other



Strong yet flexible,

Holding up a legacy,

Allowing me to discover

To step on

And move forward into the future,

Allowing me to reach out

To hold onto for support,

Forcing me to admire

To think of the time passing by,

Hundreds of years old some of these,

Those around me almost there,

Others getting closer,

My own wrinkles starting to show,

To be exposed,

Just like those I walk on,

Hold onto,

And admire today,

Life at its best

My Extraordinary Life

Sitting on my own at breakfast this morning

At one of the most fancy island beach resorts in the world, watching the light blues, purples, deep blues, even greens and reds of the ocean dotted with apparently harmless reef sharks and majestic sting rays;

where coral are being replanted in the hope of reviving not only the sea life but also in the hope of preventing entire islands from sinking.

Each guest at such a resort creates three and a half kilograms of trash.

Every single day.

A man made rubbish island is burning day and night.

At breakfast we all chatter and smile, eat Thai rambutan, Lebanese beans, and Mexican guacamole in plates and using cutlery that was shipped onto the island. Everything here is imported.

All of us eating, chattering very human, some in clothes you can only buy in the chicest air conditioned well designed shopping centres of Paris, Moscow, and Singapore, flashing perfect breasts, butts, and lips, nannies caring for their little ones day and night, others unperturbed by less fancy beach wear and their less than perfect bodies, at the core all human, laughing, feeding hungry kids, managing emotional ups and downs, building families, having the extraordinary opportunity to live this slice of perfection, all the while worried about the environment and what the situation will be for our children and theirs, well aware the part we play in it’s deterioration.

What a vantage point I have, to be able to experience the best and the worst of the world all in the most extraordinary, dreamy, movie-set like situation.

Choosing Hope, Forgiveness, and Love : A Short Story About my Father

A myriad of thoughts and feelings came up during my most recent massage. My therapist dug into my lower back, the structural, supportive area around my sacrum where I have been feeling some aching pain.

This time the memories that came up were about my father, second last born of 7 children. My thoughts went flittingly from his various traumas and the resilience he showed through them – the ones I know were the loss of his brother, the orphanage he attended in Wolverhampton – a racist area at the time he was a teenager, possibly debilitating jealousy and slander from various community members.

It is only my opinion that these were some of the parts of the story that gave rise to his alcoholism and chain smoking 70 cigarettes a day. My mind jumped to how tough it must have been to quit cold turkey as he did one fine day.

That day was August 15 1980, when his wife, my mother, asked him to stop. She was pregnant with me and couldn’t stand the smell of the smoke anymore.

His doctor had advised him to stop or else it would soon be too late, the emphysema was setting in while he was coughing out black tar regularly.

So almost 40 years on now, he doesn’t smoke, he drinks only socially.

He chose to stop harming himself. He chose life.

With his wife pregnant, as many parents-to-be start doing they make changes, they start growing up, they begin to figure out who they truly are.

My dad was faced with the prospect of growing a new family. He chose hope.

It’s not an easy or obvious thing to do when you are in the depth of your addiction, but he did it, he stopped drinking and smoking without skipping a heart beat so to say, without self-doubt, without external help in the sense of group therapies or nicotine patches and so on.

He never gave up. He continued to stand up after every fall.

The emotions around this moment were very likely deep, and painful. I only wish that my dad would share more of these stories with us. His advice to us was always “Don’t look back. Be positive.” He is an eternal positive to the point where it used to stress me out! I couldn’t understand why he rarely shared the stories of his difficulties with us, only his successes.

My massage therapist told me the story of how we all carry a wolf of darkness and a wolf of light within us, how acknowledging them both is key to living happily but that the one we feed more will grow stronger and be more present. So I see now that my dad chose to nourish and nurture the wolf of the light.

As part of his method out of darkness, he became a bit of an “exercise and health freak.” He represented Zambia as a cricket player from the age of 20-24 and then went back into the Zambian national cricket team and played with the team again from 37 to 40, after having taken back his life, fit and healthy.

Zambian National Cricket Team 1972. Ravi Devalia (standing third from the left)

He continues to focus on his healthy habits, “to a fault” is how I used to think of it. But now I see how important that was to him, as a counter to addiction, as he chose to forgive people around him, forgive himself, and chose love.

I don’t doubt now that my father’s one choice at that moment has passed on a legacy of exercise, healthy eating, and self care to the three of us as his children, into our choice of partners and probably will filter through into our children.

Aditya is the pro-footballer, respected coach, well-rounded thinker and healthy eater, Nanu the semi-pro squash champion, squash coach, ex-vegetarian and generally healthy eater, and me the yoga and dance enthusiast.

And then one has only to look to our choice in partners, my husband Maher the marathon runner, independent minded healthy eater, football enthusiast, to Stephanie the teacher, swimming coach, triathlete, and iron woman, and to Chantelle the physiotherapist, marathoner, football player, overall fitness geek and instructor, to see more of him, our father, seeping through into our lives.

Here’s a funny fact: all three of us met our life partners in a gym setting, and to top it off, our poor kids all have relentless “parent-coaches” now on their backs!

So where does this all go? It’s about the generational transmission of intention, to the ripple effect of choosing hope, forgiveness, and love.

When Hips Cry

The tears slip out of my eyes

As she pokes deep into my psoas,

Something is clearly not right

My grandma comes to mind

The one I have never met

The one who left my mother broken-hearted

Both my aunts as little girls

A traumatic passing

I groan and moan in pain, as I squirm,

Possibly trying to escape it all,

But NO!

She keeps me in it, continues as if pitiless

My mind shoots back to my mother

Who carried me in her womb

And to her mother,

And then to my daughter,

Suppressed pain passes down

Transmitted through generations

It’s not purely in the genetics

It’s in the thoughts and in the mannerisms,

It’s in the secrets

The questions begging to be asked

The pain throbs and the tears well up

Ready to flow at the slightest prod

Every thought, every feeling, every image

It’s all part of the experience

On Confidence

I always wondered what having confidence “really looked like”. As a teenager and younger woman people often considered me as confident; possibly because of the way I carry myself. In truth I rarely felt that about myself, perhaps for fleeting moments.

Then a friend of mine in Chengdu once said about confidence – that it is an ever changing experience. That some times it’s there and sometimes it’s not. So I went with that for a while. And I believe that’s true in a sense, but only part of the mystery.

The other day, my questions around confidence surfaced again because I was gradually aware of feeling more and more confident lately. I was curious as to how it would be described in a dictionary, so I looked it up online.

Confidence: a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

“She’s brimming with confidence.”

Ok, but to me that still seems a little bit shallow, and if it slips into overconfidence there is the risk for pomposity.

Quite recently, what I read somewhere else, struck a chord with me. (I am paraphrasing now and possibly adding ideas and thoughts from other sources too.)

True confidence comes from knowing that you will be able to bounce-back from a failure, set-back, or loss, by taking appropriate action whatever that might mean: asking for help, taking some time for yourself, trying again, changing direction, trying to learn the same thing differently, softening into the difficulty, possibly even doing nothing, and so on. Of course this has to come with the understanding that the path will be challenging, but that the effort made is most valuable, and that things don’t have to end with the problem.

I might be leading up to hope…

But again, most importantly as Dick Moore mentioned in a talk he recently presented to some of us on Mental Health and how it affects our children today, my understanding of confidence for now is having what he calls, “bounce-back ability,” and knowing that you will be able to access it when needed.