Mma Ramotswe: An Old And Welcome Friend

Posted: November 2, 2010

Amodini Sharma is a writer/movie critic and blogs at the Review Room and Amodini’s Movie Reviews. This post of hers won the first prize at the Women’s Web My Favourite Female Contest.

MFFcontestbadgefinal.jpgI ve written about the  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency before. Reading it is like eating comfort food. This series features Precious Ramotswe, a female detective in Botswana. While I have come across many interesting characters in fiction, when it comes down to choosing a favorite female character, Mma Ramotswe wins hands down.

In Precious Ramotswe, the author, Alexander McCall Smith has succeeded in creating what I call a truly human character. Mma Ramotswe appears real; a real-life walking-talking person, with a heart and a brain and a mind of her own, a set of convictions, her very own beliefs, a value system on which she relies, and the capacity to negotiate the vagaries of daily life and fickle human nature with patience and an enviable composure. In other words, just like the rest of us; only better.

There are other qualities too which endear her. She is a woman, we are told, of traditional build . Now if, after reading that, you haven t laughed a little laugh in your head, let me know. I have read of many admirable heroines, whom I ve liked very much, but then you look at the cover, and see said heroine s cinched in waist and overly large bosom, and wonder which gene pool she came from 🙂 . After flipping through magazines which sell you the perfect figure and tools to make yourself into a wondrous, much skinnier version of yourself, and wondering when looking at your post-partum self in the mirror, as to the benefits of having a little on the side (pun intended), I am so happy to read of a smart woman who s happy with her traditional build, that I want to stand up on my virtual soap-box and applaud.

And then there is that common sense. A quality that is not as common as you d think, but must surely be found in the vegetables of Botswana, since Mma Ramotswe has loads of it. But she is fallible too; she feels anger, resentment, and mortification. She fluffs over the awkward stuff, attempts to hide her weaknesses and uses euphemisms when I would. She also makes mistakes, agonizes over the little stuff, worries over making the right decisions, basically waffling over all the little bits of life that normal people waffle over. But above all, and the most important quality in her character, and the one because she stands tall is her good heartedness, From this one quality stems the core of her character, her ability to treat everyone kindly and with fairness, and her ability to accord respect and understanding.

In Mma Ramotswe, Mr. Smith has created a one of a kind character. Separated though she is by cultures, physical boundaries and the very undeniable fact that she is fiction after all, she is still that old friend who, if she came by, would be welcome to stay.

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5 Comments


  1. It is weird they treat widows in our culture worse than an untouchable, much worse if it is a woman. People even consider their sight as inauspicious. A cousin of mine lost her husband in an accident at a young age and I saw how hard it was for her to get married again. You suddenly become a 3rd grade product in the marriage market. Makes me think the western world, where I live, is better in respecting people

  2. My mother was widowed when she was 35 with five children to take care of. This was in 1960 and thankfully the family business took care of our financial needs. Socially life was hard and she missed going out to parties and functions because people would talk. Later she started going to movies and wearing colored clothes but her life changed drastically. Indian society is changing but we still take time in accepting widows and single women as individuals.

  3. I had no idea of this custom of not blessing a widow. It is so inhumane, isn’t it? That a woman who is a widow is treated so sadly. Not only does she lose her life partner, she also loses a standing in society, at a time, as you sa, she needs it the most.

    Hopefully, things will change as people get exposed to different cultures and come to understand that a widow/widower needs compassion and understanding.

  4. SV:Yes there was a time when widows would not sit among the invited guests at a wedding even if it was the wedding of her own daughter/son. Thank God my mother did not have to go through such torture. She was very much part of the preparations for our weddings. although she did not participate in the rituals she was very much there overseeing the arrangements.

    Indra:i can understand how you must’ve felt to see your mother withdraw herself from all social activities. Thank God it is not as bad now.

    Smitha:I too did not realize it initially but when i did I felt very upset.But society is changing and we for our part should take care to be nice to those at the receiving end.

  5. Sangitha:yes society does single out widows and widowers, but widow are still avoided like plague in many communities in India despite the globalisation of our community in more than one way. On the one hand we want our children to avail the best opportunities in India and abroad but if a widow come in just when one is leaving on some work it is considered inauspicious. Society is changing although slowly.

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