Saturday, July 11, 2009
"I have some cake here," said Mma Potokwane, reaching for the bag she had placed at her feet. "I thought that you might like a piece."
She opened the bag and took out a large parcel of cake, carefully wrapped in grease-proof paper. Mma Ramotswe watched intently as her visitor sliced the slab into two generous portions and laid them on the table, two pieces of paper acting as plates.
"That's very kind of you, Mma," said Mma Ramotswe, "But I think that I'm going to have to say no thank you. You see, I am on a diet now."
It was said without conviction, and her words faded away at the end of the sentence. But Mma Potokwane had heard, and looked up sharply, "Mma Ramotswe!" she exclaimed. "if you go on a diet, then what are the rest of us to do? What will all the other traditionally built ladies think if they hear about this? How can you be so unkind?"
"Unkind?" asked Mma Ramotswe. "I do not see how this is unkind."
"But it is," protested Mma Polokwane. Traditionally built people are always being told by other people to eat less. Their lives are often a misery. You are a well-known traditionally built person. If you go on a diet, then everybody else will feel guilty. They will feel that they have to go on a diet too, and that ill spoil their lives."
Mma Polokwane pushed one of the pieces of cake over to Mma Ramotswe. "You must take this, Mma," she said. "I shall be eating my piece. I am traditionally built too, and we traditionally built people must stick together. We really must."
Mma Potokwane picked up her piece of cake and took a large bite out of it. "it is very good, Mma," she mumbled though a mouth full of fruit cake. "It is very good cake."
For a moment Mma Ramotswe was undecided. Do I really want to change the way I am? She asked herself. Or should I just be myself, which is a traditionally build tady who likes bush tea and who likes to sit on her verandah and think?
She sighed. There were many good intentions which would never be seen to their implementation. This, she decided, was one of them.
"I think my diet is over now," she said to Mma Potokwane.
They sat there for some time, talking in the way of old friends, licking the crumbs of cake off their fingers. Mma Ramotswe told Mma Potokwante about her stressful week, and Mma Potokwane sympathised with her. "You must take more care of yourself," she said. "We are not born to work, work, work all the time."
"You're right," said Mma Ramotswe. "It is important just to be able to sit and think."
Mma Potokwane agreed with that. "I often tell the orphans not to spend all their time working," she said. "It is quite unnatural to work like that. There should be some time for work and some for play."
"And some for sitting and watching the sun go up and down," said Mma Ramotswe. "And some time for listening to the cattle bells in the bush."
-from Blue Shoes and Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith