Dr Talukdar: a life well lived

Dr Talukdar: a life well lived

LADYBRAND-Former National University of Lesotho (NUL) lecturer, Dr Sumitra Talukdar, died at her home in Ladybrand, South Africa, on March 29, 2020.
She was 89.

The Oxford-trained Talukdar was born in the then British India in 1931 to a prominent Bengali family. She graduated with a Masters in Science (MSc) from the University of Calcutta as a plant physiologist.
She won a scholarship for doctoral studies at Oxford University. She then taught at Presidency College, Calcutta, becoming the first woman lecturer in her department.

In 1966, after a sabbatical year at the University of Liverpool, she was offered a post at the National University of Lesotho.
She arrived in Lesotho two days after the country attained her independence from the British.  Talukdar was appointed a Senior Lecturer in Botany on October 6, 1966. She was later appointed Associate Professor of Biology.

Although she received other offers notably from Singapore and New Zealand, she stayed loyal to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.
It was at Roma that she met a fellow staff member, David Ambrose, whom she married in 1971 and the two became the university’s longest serving staff members until they finally moved to Ladybrand in 2008.

Talukdar became a household name to hundreds of students, many of whom became successful individuals in various disciplines across southern Africa. Some of her students later became professors and heads of departments at universities in Africa.

Talukdar was instrumental in helping set up the Friends of St Joseph’s Hospital in Roma, which supported the hospital when it had no doctors and was facing closure.
In 2018, her autobiography, Life in Three Worlds: Reminiscences, was published by Mohokare Trust. The 400-page book, with more than 370 illustrations, covers her travels across six continents.

The book has fascinating details of her interactions with the regime in South Africa which was determined to push its policy of racial segregation. It also has fascinating photographs of Maseru in the 1960s, images that capture how far Lesotho has come in the last five decades.
It also has conversations with individuals such as Mahatma Gandhi and celebrated South African writer, Alan Paton.

Among freedom struggle veterans, Fatima Meer was a personal friend and visitor to their home in Roma.
Talukdar is survived by her husband, David Ambrose, and her son Jonty Ambrose and his wife and two grandchildren who are currently living in Nairobi, Kenya.

Own Correspondent

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