Lisa Ray

The Yellow Diaries

Ever met a child philosopher?

I land in Mumbai on February 15th.

The immigration officer looks at my passport, glances up at me, looks down again then fixes me with a stare


A pause. Is my Visa legible? I really need to get my PIO card sorted.

‘Why you no have hair?’

And while it’s tempting to lean forward and whisper, ‘Shampoo- very expensive’ I’m travel weary and mindful of my special cargo. World’s best and possibly freshest stem cells. My yellow babies are crying out for a nap.

‘Because I just had a stem cell transplant’

One can never look sincere enough for an official.

‘For the Cancer’ I offer helpfully.

Officer Shirodkar nods knowingly.

‘Yes, yes. Medical tourist.’

And with that, I have no choice but to surrender to this place.

India is my most complex lover. And I’ve had complicated relationships. Believe me.

With this infuriatingly endearing exchange behind me, I touch the soil of the most infuriatingly endearing land I have ever known.

Who am I showing up as?

A courtesan, a wounded child, a seeker, a poser, a believer?

A celebrity?

Or just a medical tourist.


‘Alighting Point’ it says in the Chennai airport. And its a good place to begin. I cannot comprehend the whole. Not yet. But the narrative needs a place to begin.

And India moves quicker than my eye.

I’ve packed wigs for my Rado store appearances in Bangalore and Chennai. Not to pretend. Not for approval’s sake. But because it occurs to me that my scalp may be shiny. Don’t want to blind any photographers during our store promotions.

Ok maybe I am a little apprehensive. It’s my first public appearance.

So I trot out my ‘First Lady’ hair helmets for Aarti and Ujjala’s approval. Will it be the flirty bob or the heavy, long mane? I’m just going for less Nancy Reagan and more Michelle Obama.

At some point the ‘Nancy Reagan’ lands up on Aarti’s head.

‘When one is fat, there are certain things you should not do in public…you should not eat chicken legs- or wear a short hairpiece’

Aarti’s delivery rivals Ricky Gervais. Or any other comic of the moment.

And she’s beautiful. Even without working to be less weighty.

Which brings me back to my own pilgrimmage. I’ve got the shrinks. I’ve shed my steroid induced wetsuit, my immunity is no longer making jokes at my expense. I’ve shrugged off my fat brush moonface like a heavy winter coat.

But I am not what I was before.

Now I can discern the difference between an image that communicates and one that manipulates.

Mostly I see India moving towards the second of the options.

So I feel expansive in new ways. I will not beat my flesh back into size zero submission. It has to be enough just to radiate health. Which in my case, is as hard won and precarious as any Bollywood starlet’s latest role.

At the store opening, I will be interviewed by Barkha Dutt. The ‘First Lady’ of Indian television journalism. I find myself tugging self-consciously at my First Lady hair. One of the PR girls expresses concern over the impending interview.

‘She makes people cry. She makes them reveal things they never have before’

Another yellow warrior.

Bring it on.

Tug, tug.

Afterwards, someone brings me the India Today. On the cover is an image from my blog. I’m thrilled- and puzzled. This is a surprise. I’ve always wanted to be featured on this cover but somehow the Indian version of Time neglected to let me know. Kinda like your friends organising your Birthday party, in your neighbour’s house. You hear the commotion next door and wonder why you weren’t invited- and isn’t it weird no one’s shown up to wish you on your big day?

Infuriatingly endearing.

And thanks.

Because mostly it strikes me:

This is an image that doesn’t manipulate. At least I hope not.

Thank you India Today for urging people to see and feel.

Illness is alchemy.

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3,475 Responses

  1. < ![CDATA[Ok - keep it coming mama - medical tourist .....hmmmm]]>

  2. < ![CDATA[it's become a ritual to visit your blog for thoughts and inspiration. just wanted to let you know that you're changing my life in such a way that i aspire to be a better person. definitely will keep rooting for you. thank you, Lisa. best wishes, yours. seung-a.]]>

  3. < ![CDATA[our lisa, always beautiful in any shape, size and form. hair or no hair. thank you for moving me in ways you don't know. Cant wait to see you making movies once again but concentrate on full remission first.


  4. < ![CDATA[Some people are just so clueless or are they just insensitive? ....another Hmmm to that. :D

    You are a great writer. Keep it up! It's always nice to hear from you!

    God Bless!]]>

  5. < ![CDATA[did u know when i read your blog, i have to pull out my dictionary - i learned a new word today(alchemy) - thanks.]]>

  6. < ![CDATA[It's great to know you're blogging again.. :) take good care.. wherever you are.]]>

  7. < ![CDATA[are normal questions asked by a child curious .. how many years have?you are beautiful in this photo....and Roxette also had short hair ....You have some beautiful eyes i see in picture.
    India is very beautiful .... I read about India: history and it's culture but most importantly about religious cults of India ... India seems a country full of mystery and beauty only its rustic scenery!love ya,dear !!!]]>

  8. < ![CDATA[Amanda,

    I am wondering what she meant by "Illness is alchemy."

    Probably she means her experience has gained her wisdom or new perspective in life or she's turning into a new leaf now? LOL. I'm not sure, but it's nice.

    =) Take care!]]>

  9. < ![CDATA[You are beautiful! (just so simple):)]]>

  10. < ![CDATA[My dear Lisa,

    Thanks for coming back to us with your sensitive soul and special sense of humour. I am hungry for your words, you give so much to us about openness and bravery.
    I send you more and more yellow strength and love.

    With hugs
    Kati from Hungary]]>

  11. < ![CDATA[Lisa.. Lisa.. (chuckle)

    Ur way of blogging is damn cool.. especially u had it in ur own words... and all that bombastic words.. keep on writing dear.. i enjoy reading it every minute.. :)

    btw, fun is fun but do take care ya..]]>

  12. < ![CDATA[nice lisa keep up your good job through your blog your line regarding alchemy and disease....a nice analogy..a touch by alchemist transform many a alchemist to many needy people in this world...god bless you forever...a special thanks to india today mag for the above issue...........]]>

  13. < ![CDATA[Yes! Yes! Yes! And when you publish your blog as a book so that people who aren't here today can also read it, that should be your title, "Illness is Alchemy." SO TRUE!!!! Thank you for sharing your personal experience/wisdom/alchemy with us all!! Love you, Lisa!!!

    p.s. Although I love you as an actor (Water is my favorite movie), I'm starting to love you more as a writer/healer.]]>

  14. < ![CDATA[Hey babe!
    I wanna go visit India sometime in my life too. (Im from Singapore)
    I wish i could see you atleast once in my life.
    regardless of anything, YOU ARE SUCH AN INSPIRATION!
    I <3 YOU.
    meanwhile keep rocking like you always do!

    and if you are reading this and you have time please check out my personal blog on tumblr as well :)


    Lyna :)

    my email:


  15. < ![CDATA[Dear Lisa!

    Thank you for Your strength!
    Thank you for Your thoughts!
    Thank you for beeing here!
    You are a warrior! Never give up!
    We are always beside you!

    lot's of love

  16. < ![CDATA[Hey there asha!
    just wanted to say water is my favourite movie too!
    followed by " I can't think straight" and " The world unseen".
    alright you take care!

    Lyna :)

  17. < ![CDATA[Lisaraniray, Lisa, Lisita,Talita, Habibti, Beatiful Princess:

    buenos dìas corazón....

    en este momento es de mañana aquí,... ahi contigo me imagino que es de Tarde,..

    Que alegría que nos escribiste de nuevo.

    disfruta al máximo este día,...

    contempla un panorama lindo de Loundus,... saborea la comida que mas te guste, escucha las canciones que mas te apasionen,...convive con los niños,...

    Enamorate de la Vida! ,....porque es un regalo de Dios,..
    " The Life is a gift from God "

    y sobretodo,... Nunca dejes de sonreir,...

    Yo estare contigo siempre,.... Te quiero.

    Hasta luego..


    heart good morning ....

    right now it's morning here, ... I imagine you there is Tarde ..

    What joy that we write again.

    enjoys the most of this day ...

    provides an overview Loundus cute ... taste the food that you like, listen to the songs more your passion, live with children ... ...

    Fall in love with Life! ,.... it is a gift from God ..
    "The Life is a gift from God"

    and above all, ... Never stop smiling, ...

    I will be with you always ,.... I love you.

    See You Later]]>

  18. < ![CDATA[Wow I'm awed at your positiveness and strength. You're
    gift is passing on your strength and positivity to others either threw your words or your talent. I'm grateful for the honor of following your story. As a person who has cancer running rampant in her fanily I'll have some please thank you.

    God bless. Missy]]>

  19. < ![CDATA[Btw, you are gorgeous on the cover!]]>

  20. < ![CDATA[woops, I immediately realized I was wrong. YES!!! Alchemy is healing!!!! But, the title should be The Yellow Diaries, of course!!!

    Looking forward to further installments!!!! Thank you, Lisa!!! Thank you! Thank you! Keep healing! Keep transforming! Keep becoming who you are! Love to you!!!]]>

  21. < ![CDATA[Lisa,
    I definitely agree...that you really are a good're not just beautiful but also talented, intelligent and really have a good soul and heart. You have no idea how much you inspired and touched (not just my life but...) our thank you. i know its not easy to be you...having to give up everything and still here you are...brave and strong...remember that you are prayed and loved by many (especially me..hehehe)...So dont ever give up coz you're not alone...God is good. God bless you and hope to hear from you again.

    lynette (philippines)]]>

  22. < ![CDATA[Hi Sienna

    You didn't get the memo - she is now Lisa Ray, Child Philospher. "illness is alchemy' makes perfect sense for true. I can't say it effectively in words but if you have watched the movie "Forrest Gump' at the point when he finds out he finds out he can run and then the braces drop off - and he doesn't stop running. That's the image it brings to my mind. Illness was her life changing experience and as you said, beating it now gives her a new perspective - Run, Lisa, Run.

    Anyway its Women's Month - let's dedicate it to Lisa Ray -

    "Women - Celebrating Achievements - Breaking Barriers -Overcoming Challenges"]]>

  23. < ![CDATA[Hi Lyna in Singapore! I really want to see the World Unseen! Liked I Can't Think Straight, but Water . . . that is just the most beautifully filmed, meaningful movie I've ever seen!!!! The water is beautiful -- rain, lake, etc. The acting is amazing, specifically the little girl who played Chuiya, Lisa!!!!, and the one who played the widow who carries Chuiya to go with the train with Gandhi at the end!!! And the message is so important!!! Religion can give people strength, but is too often used to carry out man-made agendas. The power it has is unbelievable! Thanks for saying, hi! You take care, too!
    Asha in El Paso]]>

  24. < ![CDATA[what does "Illness is alchemy" mean?


  25. < ![CDATA[Hey Liz ican so feel whatever uve written here people can b insane and friends can betray you when u need them the most ... I know ure loved by millions all over the world but... I'm
    speechless all this will pass and you'll be fine but trust me those standing by u in these times are the ones who live u the most! Wajiha from

  26. < ![CDATA[Dear Lisa,

    For some exotic and intriguing reasons, at this point of reading the blog, whether it’s the title of the article, or the ending phrase ‘ Illness is Alchemy’, dear Lisa, you remind me of the young shepherd, Santiago who’s on a journey to fulfill his Personal Legend and find his Treasure in Egypt, in Paul Coelho’s book ‘The Alchemist’. One of the phrases I adore most, is “"simple things are the most valuable and only wise people appreciate them",

    Ahh, bold is beautiful, hurray to the wiggery~ ;-)


  27. < ![CDATA[Lisa,

    For what it's worth, I think your image on the cover is one of the most beautiful I have seen of you. Perhaps because it's so honest. I once read an interview with photographer Annie Leibovitz in which she said something like, "You can't take someone's picture; they have to give it to you." It reminds me of this photo of you, because it's raw... it does not pretend. Beautiful. Real.

    Like what you said to the security officer at the airport. Yellow soldiers... you are a true Spiritual Warrior.

    Light and joy from Chicago.


  28. < ![CDATA[Dear Lisa,

    Goodie for you that you are traveling to far away places. Eating chicken legs in public requires a special
    license, I'm told, you have to apply for it at the holy glad I'm not a poor chicken at the chicken shit farm. Lots of things worse than a shiny dome head. Not having an actual head would be worse I reckon. Your stem cells are probably very happy taking up residence in your body. Are stem cells male or female? Hmmm, maybe they are some sort of 3rd sex or something...

    I enjoy reading your posts just cause I do....

    India, big country, spread out, lots of humanity....Enjoy!

    Still Earth Bound and that's a good thing......]]>

  29. < ![CDATA[Joy in the morning. Lisa, you take my breath away. No worries, I won't need it for another fifteen seconds... May I make the point that manipulation has other connotations? It's fashioning, it's art, etc. Beauty? Another joy delivery system. What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life, the poet Kathleen Raine asks us?
    The world would split open.
    You are our atomic heroine, Lisa.
    Blessings, Susan]]>

  30. < ![CDATA[Dear Lisa,

    Its so nice to see u back blogging after so many days! We all yellow fans really missed u a lot. I came to know some days ago that u r presently in India...touring. And i just wondered if i could meet u...if u visited Kolkata then i would have surely made it a point to meet u...I myself live in Kolkata... U r a Bengali n me too...So please do visit Kolkata... Anyways at first u should take care of urself. Njoy ur vacation to the fullest. Just rejuvenate urself...forget everything and live for the moment! Remember 1 thing....we, the yellow diarists are always there for u....We luv u....we missed u... n We will continue loving u... Please one request.... do keep blogging....This keeps us connected with u.... Hugs...Good Wishes...

    P.S. I Love You.]]>

  31. < ![CDATA[At the end of the reading I'm just this... all *grin*

    The inner joy & peace moves me in a discrete & subtle way.

    God Bless You Lisa!

    Love & Light,

  32. < ![CDATA[hello..miss ray...gr8 to know that you are fine know...all the best for future.and hope u get well soon.just u need some to give u a jaadu ki gappi..:)
    i have been a huge fans of you since your first music album.]]>

  33. < ![CDATA[Good luck with the interview..... you look great with no hair! may even start a new trend]]>

  34. < ![CDATA[thank you that you make us seeing the beautiful sight of life. i wish you to have a wonderful life!]]>

  35. < ![CDATA[I have some grief
    nice day..
    We love you:D]]>

  36. < ![CDATA[Alice in Wonderland!!!
    Алиса в стране чудес !!!]]>

  37. < ![CDATA[Hum, she's the best one to answer that but I read "illness is alchemy" as: illness changes you, passes you through fire or dissolves you only to make you gold, to make you real. It shows yourself what's trully there.

    There are some books by Thorwald Dethlefsen and Rudiger Dahlke where they explore how illness can become a way for true healing I think is worth sharing this one I found the name in English: "The healing power of illness"]]>

  38. < ![CDATA[We are many people fighting for the same. You are not alone. On with their heads held high.
    You're still a very beautiful woman. Your eyes radiated kindness
    We will struggle together.
    All my love. Maite (Spain)]]>

  39. < ![CDATA[You are all of those...a courtesan, a wounded child, a seeker, a poser, a believer!

    Sorry Lisa you missed your Bday party but at least you look really good on the Bday invitation... :)

    Enjoy your time there and write more.]]>

  40. < ![CDATA[Лида вы где? Как Олимпийские игры прошли в Ванкувере?

    Лида ты где? Как олимпиада в Ванкувере прошла? Ты давольна?]]>

  41. < ![CDATA[Lida you where? How the Olympic Games have passed in Vancouver ?]]>

  42. < ![CDATA[‘Shampoo- very expensive’ - that's Lisa's style! Way to go, girl!]]>

  43. < ![CDATA[beautiful....]]>

  44. < ![CDATA[Dear Lisa,

    My pulse was moving so fast the VERY MINUTE that you posted this new blog… and I was just recovering from your flood of tweets which made me insanely happy!!

    Seriously, I literally stopped to slow down my heartbeat…and composed myself.

    You and your writing have that effect on me…

    ... and your stories always make me ponder about things…

    On the subject of image, I have to confess that there is a part of me that vainly loves aesthetically beautiful things even with regards to People… but that somehow changed in the few months that I have known you through your blog.

    To be very honest, the very first time that I’ve seen you in the ‘wetsuit’, I was like bewildered of how could such transformation happen to a very stunningly gorgeous person?

    But as I got to know you more, Your true Inner Soul made me look deeper beyond the fleeting beauty of the flesh…

    Your endearing Spirit that sheds true humanity and grace is what I see regardless of what you look.

    And that new way of seeing things deep down to its very core is something that I now carry in my perspective of things... well, I try to.

    In every way, you are an ‘Image’ that communicates and that touches marrows around the world.

    I am genuinely happy to know that you are prioritizing your Health and will not fall in that trap of size-zero vanity. Please do keep that conviction no matter what!

    For me, YOU ARE THE ALCHEMY not the illness…

    For you are the one who transmuted the illness and you turned it into something “gold”… not just for you but for everyone whom you have touched in Life.

    You are the one who transcended things and the illness was just made a vessel to show that YOU ARE “The Great Work”.

    Let India intoxicate you more with its maddening wonder and mystic… as you do to us with your Breathtaking Soul!!

    Wishing you more enlightenment in your pilgrimmage,
    -- Nerissa]]>

  45. < ![CDATA[PS:

    I just have to share this to you again because this is how I feel EVERYTIME I see your “India Today” photo…

    You always unnerve me in that cover… in a good way of course :) ;)>

  46. < ![CDATA[Lisa in wonderland
    have fun :)]]>

  47. < ![CDATA[Lisa,

    I agree. India Today should have asked you for your permission or at the very least let you know before using your picture on their cover page. It's sad how the media works sometimes.

    I hope they didn't bother you too much with immigration and the new H1N1 screening (I was visiting India only days before you arrived in mumbai and was particularly bothered by the H1N1 screening). Hope you have a pleasant and happy trip back in India. Also hope you feel better in the coming days.

    Take care,

  48. < ![CDATA[For something new to start something old has to end. You know what I'm trying to say, right Lisa?
    Go Lisa Go! Super Yellow!


  49. < ![CDATA[Quando vi Lisa Ray e li o que escreve em seu blog, aprendi o verdadeiro significado da palavra beleza.]]>

  50. < ![CDATA[hi lisa,

    U look worried in the pic but still confident. It shows you are same inside out.

    You don't have to be on the cover to be known. India knows u for long but may be u are still stranger to ur self.]]>

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