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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Juvenile Tales: A Truant Lifestyle & One Ugly Fight

It could easily pass for the remotest area in the south-western part of the country, but Rubaya sub-county in Kabale district still evokes fond memories in my life. This is one area whose residents-according to some wild tale-were once famed for trying test drives on sewing machines, and buttressing banana plants with concrete to curb wild weed in their farms. 

I had not heard of the place before, until some slice of fate meant that it would be my dad’s workplace for a period of time then still unknown. 

I was about six at the time, though for some reason I had not started school. But I knew simple arithmetic and a few other basics, my old man having taken me through most of these whenever he had the time. When I finally got chance to start school, I took it with both hands and headed to a nearby primary school to enroll for P1-there was no kindergarten then. 

What I didn’t know though, was the fact that this class belonged to that bunch of novices whose hands would have to be guided to etch a single letter, something I believed to have outgrown a lot earlier. Bothered by the whole practice, I sneaked out of the classroom and didn’t return thereafter, losing a year in the process.

This was at a time the conflict in Rwanda, a neighboring country, was simmering with near full scale fighting. Matters were not helped by the deployment of soldiers at the Ugandan side of the border as I happened to befriend Otim, a top commander of the deployment at the time (I was too young to tell between the various army regiments then). 

He owned a cassette player, a gadget I gradually grew fond of, and would play any genre of music as I danced the day away with amateur strokes. Otim would then send me back home with a few groceries at the end of the day. That made my life then, and was partly responsible for my truancy and growing aversion for anything academic at the time.

The fighting grew more intense by the day, but the soldiers always alerted us of any impending attacks, at which point we would have to find temporary shelter for a day or two. This usually involved staying in concentration camp-like settings or utilization of free space around church lawns in neighboring villages. 

It was in one of those incidents that I got involved in a feud with a local lad from our host village. I don’t recall what it was exactly about, but it started a clumsy fight of sorts that ended in defeat for the hapless juvenile, leaving him with a bleeding nose.

This, to the boy’s village cronies was akin to contempt. They could not fathom the fact that one of their own had been embarrassed on home soil, and set out to pounce on me in a bid to avenge the humiliation. In some way, I managed to break free before they could fully get hold of my now weary frame, incensing them the more.  

A chase immediately ensued, during which I would soon discover what I later came to learn as Adrenaline --Yes, that one. That kind of power that propels one to do things they would not do with their ordinary strength.

I managed to safely get home and get some rest later in the day, though when we returned to the place a few months later, our hosts had forgiven-and probably forgotten all about the brawl!


-Dan B. Atuhaire

Idle Thoughts-I have beef With...

Every once in a while, people around us will behave, or do certain acts that will rub us the wrong way. While some are inadvertent, others are premeditated. We tend to ignore some, but others are simply too irritating to let pass. Some of these are people we often ingratiate with. Some are our bosom buddies. Others are the people we have branded celebs. 

Celebs who will not respond to comments on their Facebook statuses:
We are their fans. And yes, we love them. But that doesn’t mean they should take us for granted. But why do they seek our opinions when they well know they won’t let us know of what they think of our own views? Why even bother ask us for the same? We’ll soon shun your posts. Eat your hearts out.

You can use your walls and fan pages to advertise your shows. You can let us know what views you hold on topical issues. But don’t engage us in debates you are not going to contribute to. Oh, and learn to tolerate dissent, too. All artistes are culprits in this aspect.

It’s Barbara, not Barbra!
For lack of a better word, I will call this grammar beef. American v British grammar. A friend of mine snarls every time someone spells her name without the extra “a”. She loves sounding British, I suppose. I have since learnt to tell between the two. By doing away with the extra letter, I suppose the Americans wanted to stamp their independence from our brothers in England.

Cynics:
It was one of those high school chronicles. One of those discourses that aim at building the art of public speaking. Debates. The motion went thus: “Fire is better than water”. One cocky student took to the floor and in a strong local dialect spoke from the opposing side. "Mbahi chairman…Imwe ba proposers, aima. Ente n’inyw’omuriro?" Literal translation: Dear Chairman and your Irrational proposers, our Cattle drink water, not fire.

He hailed from one of those cattle keeping tribes in western Uganda. In this culture, cows are deemed as precious as anything on earth you could think of. They are a measure of one’s respect, stature or dignity. A status symbol of sorts. He didn’t see how a principal source of livelihood could be compared with something he could do without.

Master/Uncle:
It’s a fact I have come to appreciate. I am relatives, literally, with every soul earning their bread as a taxi conductor. From a distance, they will call you names until you give them the nod that you wish to use their services. I am addressed by several titles –I guess depending on how one perceives me; Uncle, Boss, master, name it. Only if they could use deodorants!

You be like as if…
The lingua spoken by smart-alec adolescents. Lugezigezi. Some of them carry it into their early adulthood. Some will carry it to their workplaces, too. You don’t use this kind of grammar unless you have a low rating of your own IQ. It’s a way of gaining acceptance amongst one’s peers, I will presume. We could forgive juveniles. But 20+ year-olds?

Tabloids (Read Red Pepper)
Granted, they have done great work in exposing the ills in our society. They have brought them to our attention and all. But that, probably, is where my plaudits end. How about you revise your reporting language? There’s a better way of conveying the message without sounding X-rated. We will still give you business.  "Juicy" may sound a little polite and flattering, but how on earth do you describe someone’s daughter as "waterlogged"?

- Dan B. Atuhaire

So Ugandan


I am on a maiden visit to some remote township,
And round the last bend on my way lies a construction site
It looks like a budding mall of sorts,
But it’s betrayed by a peculiar forecourt
I now ask my guide…
"It’s a Shell", he tells me. 
"A Shell for vehicles to do their refueling here".

I now take a close look at the spot
I can see a logo of a rival fuel company
It reads like "Engen"
My guide insists it’s Shell.
An idea soon springs to mind. The truth now dawns on me…
I am welcome to the Pearl of Africa!

It’s only in Uganda that every petrol station is called Shell,
And every toothpaste brand called Colgate
Change on service fares is rather called Balance
And beverage urns dubbed "Empty"
"Socks" has no singular form;
As is the case for Chips

Gone are the days when every cab driver was called Pilot,
And every President called Museveni,
Ugandans now know Obama…
My village folks think he’s a Mukiga,
As is the case with every black American
But they are only being Ugandan!

-     Dan B. Atuhaire

My Maiden Eid fete Invite!


03rd October, 2009. My face gradually turned somber as I yearned for my first public holiday in a long time. Our brothers in Islam had been fasting and all signs seemed to point to Monday as a potential public holiday-in-waiting.

It was a cold Saturday evening at the beach-side, and time check was 19:59 when my phone buzzed with an incoming message. "Idd is tomorrow", it read in part. 

Meddie, my Muslim crony was inviting me over for some Pilau (what else could I have gone for?). So while I whined at Allah for not keeping the moon for an extra day, I was quite grateful for this invite, being my maiden appearance at an Islamic festivity.

The Journey:
All roads led to Kawempe for this sumptuous reception, and we were able trace Meddie's place after a few minutes’ drive from Wandegeya. The journey wasn’t without any hitches though. We were to stop near some school sign post, but this area has so many Muslim school sign posts that one ought to be moving at 10 Kph to read each of them.

So we missed the place by about 100 meters or so, but we were able to reach our destination one call later, amid quizzical glees from our hosts of the day.

The Venue:
We were immediately ushered into a reception hall (read dining room) and soon mingled with all present. In the room were several of Meddie's siblings, plus a few more others that yours truly did not try to find out much about.

As is the custom amongst many a muganda, all salutations were done while kneeling, the response to which turned out to be some sort of melodic discourse between the hosts and us, the guests. 

For the next 30 minutes or so, we were treated to some mini-entertainment of sorts, watching a taped wedding reception in between introductory pleasantries and occasional chit chats.

The Food: 
It was not long before dishes started flowing in, along with 'ebigenderako', and filled with all tribes of meat (without the only permitted exception, of course). The sight of steam-oozing mashed matooke wrapped in banana leaves (ndagala) only served to whet my appetite further. 

For a moment I wished I still had my high school appetite(I used to eat like I was hired to), but nonetheless my determination on the day could be read from my face by any faint-sighted mortal. The beads of sweat on my face seemed to suggest I had just overtaken Usain Bolt in the last bend of a 200m Olympics race!

The Visit to Jajja: 
It was now time to let the food have its moment in our bellies as we sought to look beyond the fete, thinking about the next day's work and all. Meddie suggested paying a brief visit to his Granny, a few minutes’ drive from our host's place, to which we agreed. In the lawn, boys yapped away in inaudible tones while the girls ambled around the place with raw mangoes.

We then made way to the main house, and were finally able to see the long awaited Grandma-a dot com granny-if you ask me. Here, we were treated to some great entertainment from all the latest RnB one would think of, from Akon to our local crooners-the good ones of course. 

It all played in the background, so I was unable to ascertain whether she had a resident DJ, or if she did the mixing herself. Granny is one big fan of RnB, and probably doesnt do hiphop-I didn’t hear any of Kanye West or Jay-Z during our brief visit.

I was almost tempted to get myself a copy of her collection, but a second thought suggested Meddie (I guess he got her the music). Fading sounds of OS with mamacita could still be heard in the background as the clock ticked away and darkness gradually set in. 

We were now set for our return, at which point I had done away with my disappointment at celebrating Idd on a Sunday. I now looked forward to 9Th October, when I would have another public holiday in the name of Independence!

- Dan B Atuhaire

Adios, Neighbor


One of the first truisms I learnt in high school hinted at change being a fact of life. I guess everyone would really wish a change for the better. It’s a fact that I came to appreciate when my change of profile from student dictated that I had to start living in the environs of working class mortals. The kind of environment that makes you forget that words like coursework and others of the ilk were once part of your regular vocabulary.

Until a few weeks ago, my place of abode was some kind of mixed environment that exposed me to both sides of student life; One that really made me appreciate both the plight and joy of being a student. A huge majority of my neighbors were students. And girls at that. I guess you now know where I am headed.  

Staying in this environment had meant that that we gradually formed a bond with our neighbors, in a manner very much akin to an African traditional family setting. We shared the same compound for a lavatory and had one common source of water. A hastily constructed communal tap for the low income (no income, actually) folks that we were. So there was no way a resident could afford to go missing-literally. We were always in each other’s faces, literally.  

My high school background was that of a single school, so one would imagine the hurdles I went through, scouring for the much desired confidence to acquaint myself with the fairer sex. Somehow, I managed to get my way around, and even had the privilege to earn a few favors. Like removing my clothes from the lines whenever it threatened to rain while I was away. 

My introversion appeared to have run its course, until I met this new neighbor, a sister to an old pal. And neighbor for two years. The catchup process was gradual-as usual. By the time we finally got along, I was in the final stages of shifting to my new residence, some good distance from my old place. 

She was on hand to help with the final packing and loading the last of my belongings onto the truck I had hired for the day. As we set about moving, she waved to see me off, wearing such a warm smile that made me wish I had stayed a little longer. I may have opted to change address in search of improved neighborhood, but part of my heart appeared to have stayed back.
- Dan B. Atuhaire