My good friend Daniel was a man of great knowledge. He used to give unsolicited advices. There was no doubt that those advices were well-meant, but they didn't work well sometimes.
He was the one who mentioned about Temani. He pronouced that name as "Thaemaani" and I thought that was how it should be pronounced. According to Mr. Daniel, Mr. "Thaemaani" was the right person to be approached, in case you needed any assistance in expediting your terminal benefit papers at the ministry of education. My terminal benefit papers were submitted to the ministry sometime back and I wanted someone to give them a push. As there were more than a hundred people working in the ministry offices and it would be difficult for me to locate Mr."Thaemaani", Mr. Daniel gave me a brief description of his appearance and the approximate location of his "office" so that I could go there as early as possible and get hold of him before he got himself involved in some other serious matters at the ministry.
Accordingly the very next morning, I posted myself at the main entrance to the long corridor that led to many important offices within the ministry. As it was nearing 8 am, people started trickling in. Seeing an expatriate(term used for foreign nationals working in Zambia) standing near the entrance, some of the in-comers gave me a casual glance and proceeded. There were no familiar faces. Well-dressed ladies passed by, clicking their high heels on the polished wooden floor, chatting in high pitched voice with their counter parts and hardly paying any attention to me. I stood to one side, with my brief case under my arm and scrutinizing every male person to determine whether he fitted with Mr. Daniel's description of "Thaemaani". And while I was waiting patiently, someone just breezed in.
Even at the first glance, I decided that he must be the person I was looking for. He was short, stout, slightly bald and was wearing a dark blue jacket. Some official files were under his arm. On the whole, he had a very official look about him. I did not have to ask for any introduction. I just stepped forward and greeted him in a familiar manner, "Good morning, Mr. Thaemaani...."
He stopped abruptly in his stride and stared at me. Then he asked me in a severe tone "Do I look like Mr. Temani?" and walked away.
I did not know what to say, but one thing was certain. This gentleman was not the "Thaemaani" I was looking for. Then who was Thaemaani?
Soon I found out. Mr. Daniel's friend "Thaemaani" was none other than an office orderly (peon). His job was to carry files from desk to desk and his name was Temani. He did not have any permanent office, but found generally in the vicinity of the main registry. However, the description fitted someone else also, I thought wryly.
Later in the afternoon, I was told by the lady at the "Enquiries" desk to go and check with Senior Accounts officer Mr. Kasanda in room 24, whether my papers were ready. As I entered his office, I realized to my embarrassment that Mr. Kasanda was the person whom I mistook for Temani that morning. However, it appeared that he did not recognize me as he gathered some papers from a tray in front of him, glanced through them and handed to me. As I was just about to leave his office, he said with the ghost of a smile, "Mr. John, Mr. "Thaemaani" has done a good job for you, I hope”.
I thanked Mr. Kasanda for the speedy processing of my papers and apologized for the mix-up that morning. He said it didn’t matter and I just walked away, admiring his sense of humour.