AJITA THURAISINGHAM LEWIS, 1946-2007

A tribute by Miss Ch’ng Kim See, Head of ISEAS Library.

Ajita and I went back a long way. We saw a lot of each other during our first year at the University of Malaya where we both did arts courses at the Faculty of Arts in 1966.

In our second and third years even though she had opted for English literature studies and I for History and International Relations, we continued to see each other often at lunch and tea (at the ‘cow-shed’), and in the Library which was our second home as we were non-‘hostelites’

We would also see each other at parties. There were two memorable social occasions: Ajita invited a bunch of us music lovers to bring our favourite 33 & 1/3 RPM record to her house for dinner, after which we would play the piece and talk about it and why we liked it. It was really fun.

The second occasion was a blank – some years after we had graduated, I visited Ajita at her parents home, and her mother asked, “So, do you still make chocolate cakes?” Startled, I confessed that I did not know how to make cakes nor eat them, to which Mrs Thuraisingham said that she was amazed as she would never forget me as the girl who came to learn to make a chocolate cake, and did not take it back, explaining that I did not eat cakes!

We lost touch until 1988 when I took up my present position. Ajita was working part-time at ISEAS Library. She had been devoting most of her time to bringing up her two lovely children, Sunali, and Owen who had a medical condition. She was not able to take on a full-time position. At ISEAS Library she edited the ASEAN Bibliography, 1981-55 which was published in 1988.

Ajita’s passing is a big loss to the library profession, to her family and friends. Despite her stressful family commitment, she served the LAS in various committees and contributed many ideas especially in library education which she advocated with vigour. She was a member of an LAS task force which agitated for a library school in Singapore. She was a loving mother, wife and daughter. Ajita is remembered for her social grace, an enquiring mind and a ‘bleeding heart’. She had a gregarious nature and had a wide circle of friends; she spoke her mind about public and political issues that bothered her. In her relatively short life, Ajita has made significant and indelible contributions and will be sorely missed by many.

CKS
06 June 2007