Upon meeting Lalita she said “my name is Lalita – not Lolita!” This was on the first day of my Peace Corps assignment at the University of Malaya Library.
She was a beautiful Indian girl wearing a gorgeous sari and I was to be her boss. For the several months that I knew her, she never wore the same sari twice. As she walked, the end of her sari fluttered in her wake – like a light silk scarf blowing in a slight breeze. Like a butterfly with gossamer wings. A vision of loveliness.
Over the next several days I found that others also thought her to be lovely and that she had a “pride” of males who waited upon her like she was a princess. She was the daughter of Dato Rajasooria, the Chief Justice of Malaya. I don’t remember where she went to the university, but her English was fluent and spoken with a pure British accent. Recently I found that she had been a Rotary Foundation Fellow studying Philosophy at Cambridge University in the early 60s.
My first day was memorable by two unexplained incidents. The first happened as she was showing me the circulation desk. As we passed the open paste pot, it turned over, spilling its contents over my only clean pair of pants – which I then wore stiffened for the next several days – until my air shipment of clothes arrived from the States. Was this perhaps the billowing sari? Or was it something else?
I didn’t know anywhere that I could have my pants washed while I waited.
The other happened as we passed a pile of books on a desk. As we passed, the books fell all over the floor. Was this, perhaps, the billowing sari? Or was it something else?
It didn’t take long to find that Lalita didn’t work much. Someone needed to speak to her about it but who should it be? Not I. It would have been almost a sacrilege. She left the Library several months later for a position reading children’s books on Radio Malaysia. There was no appreciable difference in the workload. Her void was more subtle. She left behind mourning men who had lost their princess.
In searching the Internet, I found that her married name to be Rajasingham and that she is now an Associate Professor, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. A recent picture of her shows that, after many years, she is still a very pretty woman.