I haven’t once heard or read about Botswana until the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

My thoughts swerved from, “Uh, there’s such a country?,” then, “that sounds like an interesting book.”

I believed it sounded African, and it was, in a beautiful way.

It’s meaningful that I was able to get to know the country first, not by its facts and figures, but through a wonderful, laid-back narration on how the ‘Batswana’ lead simple lives, and importantly what they stand for.

Alexander McCall Smith’s charming series is set in Botswana. He always describes it as a fine country with people imbued with rich lives. People who like to take their time well and talk over hot red bush tea, savoring the silence in between. To me, at least, it felt like the most difficult of circumstances can be eased over tea and conversation.

It’s admirable that the characters are reflective of the people in Africa. Surprisingly, without ever having stayed there, somehow I feel that I already know them.

Precious Ramotswe, our proud traditionally-built protagonist, is a warm, understanding, clever woman. Foremost, she’s the daughter of the remarkable, honorable cattle raiser Obed Ramotswe. Second, she’s the only female detective in Botswana. Her positive outlook and kindness is paramount. In contrast, it is easier for me to be cynical with people who try your patience and kindness. But hers is a heart that always tries to understand people to their core, their tendencies and frailties.

Precious Ramotswe amid the only detective agency in Botswana (Credit: BBC)

I admire McCall’s writing, that although he is criticized for sounding Utopian, he chooses to emphasize the silver lining in a rather chaotic world. Many are already doing well in painting the real problems of the world – poverty, genocide, food shortage, diseases. The horrible stuff. He would not want to amplify that. Rather, he’s acutely aware of these problems that he intends to help by stirring positive spirit in the background.

All the while I feel warm and fuzzy whenever I read his books; his thoughts soothed my insides. If words could heal, it had cured all the hurt in this world. I’m serious, his positive spirit can wield words with such potency.

On top of the good feeling I picked up from the book, it’s humbling that they have used their diamond wealth for the welfare of their people. Likewise, I take comfort that there are more cattle than there is people in their country. They also boast the most number of elephants in the world.  Imagine a generous space for wildlife!

I wish to visit Botswana someday.

Luckily, McCall Smith has already taken me there since I leaped through the pages.

What’s ahead is just a bonus.


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