When Desi, my dear house helper, didn’t show up till 11am yesterday, I started to get worried. I remembered explicitly telling her, “Kesho kumi, dada”, in my very limited Swahili. Which translates to “Tomorrow ten am, sister”.
Desi and my relationship is one without words mostly. Very similar to a married couples. Her English vocabulary is restricted to Hi, Bye, Thank you and Ok. And my expertise in Swahili is pretty much at the same level. But she understands exactly what I mean. Which makes it fundamentally different from a married couples. But I digress.
So when Dada was missing till 11, I texted her “Kuja Dada”, “come, sister”. No response. Called her. No response. Time to escalate hunting mission. King Julian, the English speaking driver was summoned. Before he came however, I got a phone call from a random number. A mzungu (Swahili for white man) on the other end, informed me that my helper was at the police station. Errr ok. According to him, the bus she took home last evening on her way back from work, was confiscated by the traffic police, along with all it’s passengers. He didn’t know why. He himself was at the police station to retrieve his house help and Desi had requested him to call me too.
I told mzungu man, our interpreter in distress, to ask Desi if she wanted me to come over to the police station. Mzungu man said there was no need as they were letting them go now.
When King Julian emerged, I updated him on the events and told him to call Dada. After a long winded phone conversation, King Julian, with a grave face, declared, “Madam, It is true”.
“What is true, Julian?”
“Dada. She is at the police station”
“Why is she at the police station, Julian? What did she say? Does she want me to come there?”
Turns out the bus driver and some of the passengers on the ill fated bus had misbehaved with the traffic police. In Tanzania, the police, traffic or otherwise, is King. There are no two ways to it. So off went the bus with all it’s contents to the Kings Palace for the night.
According to Julian, they were releasing the passengers soon and there was no need for us to go.
This morning when Desi finally did come to work, there were so many things I wanted to ask her. But I knew she wouldn’t have half the answers, herself. And I knew the answers already. Even if there are any laws against this stark violation of basic human rights, who knows they exist and how to exercise them.
The more time I spend here, the more I notice that Tanzanians are not very aggressive people. Despite, living under very challenging circumstances, most will have a smile on their face. It was easy for the police to take the whole bus away because they knew they wouldn’t be met with too much resistance. Most people will take it in their stride and move on with their lives the next morning.
If Desi were my house helper in Pakistan, she would’ve demanded the whole week off to recover from the trauma and I would have to listen to her narrations and re-narration of this unfortunate event till I knew the details by heart.
Too soon to form opinions about a people I have only just met, though.