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What would Mma Ramotswe do? September 14, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. You’re probably all familiar with the bracelets, bumper stickers, mugs, and the like bearing the initials “WWJD” for “What would Jesus do?” Their intent is to get people to slow down and think before they act, so their behavior is less impulsive and more Godlike.

But as our friend Ben points out, God is a rather intimidating role model. Surely there must be someone on the continuum between Jesus and Homer Simpson to whom we could relate without feeling the need to be perfect. I nominate Mma Ramotswe.

For those who don’t know her, Precious Ramotswe is the heroine of Alexander McCall Smith’s marvelous No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, which are set in Precious’s native Botswana. (My favorites are Blue Shoes and Happiness and Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.) Mma Ramotswe is “traditionally built”—which is to say, so enormous her van actually lists to the driver’s side when she is heading off somewhere—and her heart is even bigger than her hefty build. Her big heart, her traditional values, her gentle spirit, and her sympathy for the human condition are what put the heart and soul into the beloved novels.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels have finally been turned into a TV series for HBO. Sadly, OFB and I don’t get TV reception here, and have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the series to come out on DVD. Finally, we discovered through Netflix that the series was available, and I wasted no time ordering it (along with a tour of Botswana hosted by Alexander McCall Smith himself) from Amazon. OFB and I have been enjoying a nightly episode ever since, and are dreading the day when we run out. (But we hear a second season is in the offing.) Though, as always happens, none of the characters are quite as I’d imagined them from reading the books, Mma Ramotswe is, indeed, precious. And all the supporting characters are endearing.

So, what would Mma Ramotswe do? She would support the traditional values of respect, courtesy, and consideration, of love for one’s family, one’s fellow man, one’s country, and the land. She would say that using common sense and kindness can do more good than following the letter of the law no matter how much damage it inflicts. She would point out that all of us are brothers and sisters under the skin, and it’s about time we started acting like it. She would say from personal experience that neither a wrong choice nor personal tragedy has to ruin your life; you have the choice to learn and grow rather than wilt and die. Above all, I think, she would say that the only right action is an action grounded in love.

Hmmm. I think Jesus would approve.

            ‘Til next time,




1. Bonnie Story - September 14, 2009

Wow, fantastic post. I really enjoyed the books! Who played the lead role in the TV series, and was she traditionally built :~) ? Great role opportunity. I’ll have to track those episodes down. “Neither a wrong choice nor personal tragedy has to ruin your life; you have the choice to learn and grow rather than wilt and die…” Wonderful words today, thanks so much.

Thanks, Bonnie! Jill Scott played Mma Ramotswe, and she’s a big girl, though I think the costumes made her look more “traditionally built” than she really is. In my heart of hearts, I’m still sorry they didn’t get Queen Latifah to take the role.

2. deb - September 15, 2009

Listening to the last few chapters of Tea Time for the Traditionally Built on audio book. Love it.

I especially loved the way Alexander McCall Smith managed to work in all the beloved touchstones of the series, including, of course, the famous fruitcake and Mma Makutsi’s talking shoes.

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