Wednesday, 8 May 2013

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

by Alexander McCall Smith

The head of No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency does not get to solve many mysteries in this book. It’s not that she is going on vacations. In fact, a bit too much is happening. Thankfully, Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe’s new employee are doing excellent detective work of their own, while our traditionally built heroine confronts her past.

Mma Ramotswe liked to walk in her garden in the evening, taking care to move slowly and with firm tread; those whose crept about at night risked stepping on a snake if they were not careful, as snakes move out of our way only if they feel vibrations in the ground. A light person — a person of non-traditional build, for example — was at far greater risk of being bitten by a snake for that very reason. That was another argument, of course, for maintaining traditional build — consideration for snakes, and safety too.

Mma Ramotswe was well aware of the difficulties now faced by traditionally built people, particularly by traditionally built ladies. There was a time in Botswana when nobody paid much attention to thin people — indeed thin people might sometimes simply not be seen at all, as they could so easily be looked past. If a thin person stood against a background of acacia trees and grass, then might he not either merge into the background or be thought to be a stick or even a shadow? This was never a danger with a traditionally built person; such a person would stand in the landscape with the same prominence and authority as a baobab tree.

There was no doubt in Mma Ramotswe’s mind that Botswana had to get back to the values which had always sustained the country and which had made it by far the best country in Africa. There were many of these values, including respect for age — for the grandmothers who knew so much and had seen so much hardship — and respect for those who were traditionally built. It was all very well being a modern society, but the advent of prosperity and the growth of the towns was a poisoned cup from which one should drink with the greatest caution. One might have all the things which the modern world offered, but what was the use of these if they destroyed all that gave you strength and courage and pride in yourself and your country? Mma Ramotswe was horrified when she read of people being described in the newspapers as consumers. That was a horrible, horrible word, which sounded rather too like cucumber, a vegetable for which she had little time. People were not just greedy consumers, grabbing everything that came their way, nor were they cucumbers for that matter; they were Batswana, they were people!

No comments:

Post a Comment