I walk the streets of Kampala, for a living and because it is a pleasure. I even have the shoes for it-faithful grey moccasins, that already had quite a bit of mileage on them when I got them and I have added much more. The things I could tell you that I have seen, walking in Kampala! They are quite many, some astonishing, some heartbreaking, some just plain weird with more than a twang of bizarre.
|Downtown Kampala, my area code!|
From time to time, you still find yourself wondering, ‘What did he do? Did that girlfriend ever discover that he knew the child had not been his, and the child’s real father had spirited the daughter away but she could not bring herself to tell him? Does the girlfriend still risk and lie in the same bed with this man, thinking she has him fooled forever? Will I one day, scanning the Luganda newspapers as I stride up town, be shocked by a headline, YAMUTTEMYE, and see grisly photographs of him and her dead in their Kitende muzigo because I listened and gave no advice?’ Or was it all a con?
I have so many of those. Almost everyday, I’m ‘gifted’ or happen to be passing by, when sun-crazed passions spill out. But it is not about those that I want to tell you. But about a gentler Kampala with rare incidents of kindness that prove to me again and again, a humanity still lurks in Kampala residents. Despite all their troubles.
Like a few days ago, trying to dodge the morning traffic, our taxi from Entebbe into Kampala, tried the Katwe-Namirembe road route. We ended up more ensnared, in frustration, we got out and joined the walking masses that look like pilgrims walking up a hell to a shrine. Well, I was glad later, for that misfortune. For I saw a man and woman in that walking, heaving, living crowd, being made way for, because they were each carrying a baby-their twins. Frowns of people passing them turning into the sweetest smiles.
Then not one, not two, quite a number, greeting them, congratulating them, and the men stuffing one thousand shillings, sometimes two thousand shillings into the father’s busy palm. You can endure any day, when you have seen such kindness. But I was ‘gifted’ again an intimation into the female mind, too early to an office for an appointment waiting and reading my Autobiography of Malcolm X. I had found the office administrator sweeping and tidying up for the coming day. I was so quiet, unobtrusive, they soon forgot I was there, and started talking, chattering, women among women, with her friends who passed through.
One friend of that office assistant said something that caught my ear and reminded me of the greater significance of what I had seen, not more than an hour earlier. Standing in the doorway, the two of them looking out on Bombo road, I only caught the last bit of her statement. She was saying, “You don’t know what it means to a woman to see her man carrying their baby. It feels so good.” You cannot have a bad day after that, even if you were merely a witness, an on scene reporter.