Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It Is Not What It Looks Like On The Surface

I don’t have any issues with people who are disabled or as they now like to call themselves – physically challenged. As far as I am concerned, there are some things that they are not able to do because of their disability and it is not their fault.

I also do go out of my way to help them – if they are in a wheel chair, I will hold the door open for them and if they can’t reach something I will do it for them.

However, there must be a place where the buck stops. I am in the washroom and standing at the urinal which is scared to us men. The ability to be able to stand up while having a pee is something I have always found fascinating. Men can pee while walking but women can’t do that. And like the women that they are, they have to complicate the simple process of having a pee by having to squat.

Getting back, I am at the urinal when I hear shuffling behind me. Looking round, there is a man who is obviously disabled. With six empty urinals to choose from, he decides to come and use the one next to me and that unnerved me. I held firm and carried on.

As I finished and just as I was about to pull up my zipper, Disabled Man spoke and this is what he had to say.

Disabled Man: “My zipper appears to be stuck and I need some help pulling it down.”

TB: “I am not that sort of person!”

Disabled Man: “Oh, it is nothing like that. With my paralysis, sometimes I am unable to pull down my zip especially when it gets stuck.”

Okay, so his right arm had died long ago and what he had to say did make sense and he was not propositioning me. So I agreed to help.

It turns out that metal lever on the zip had not only broken off, but his shirt was also caught in the zip.

It was hard to pull down his zip while I was standing up so I lowered myself and my face towards his crotch area and that is when the washroom door swung open.

Muzungu Man stood there with his face all ashen and not too sure of what to do next. I could see his mind going into overdrive – should I walk out? Should I head for one of the cubicles? Or should I just stand there?

Eventually, he coughed out loud as if trying to attract our attention, then apologized and walked out.

I knew what he was thinking and tried to shout out: “It is not what you think” but he was gone. Minutes later in walked a man in a suit and looking all official. He had to be one of the hotel staff and it was obvious that Muzungu man had reported the incident.

Hotel Official was caught at the crease. He approached the whole affair in a diplomatic manner by going to one of the urinals and pretending to pee. Then he coughed out loud after which he sought to whistle to himself as he tried to figure out his next move.

When I finally got Disabled Man’s zipper down, I fled just in case he asked me to hold IT for him as he peed.

Back in the restaurant, Waiter and Waitresses who had previously been ignoring me stared at me in concern and disgust while tut-ing.

Obviously Hotel Official had spread the word round – that ‘I was doing naughty things to Disabled Man’ - Jeez!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Time = Stress

The saying: ‘Time = Money’ rings true worldwide except in Uganda. I do stand to be corrected because two Ugandans - Dorcus Inzikuru and Stephen Kiprotich realized that if they didn’t employ that formula, there was no way they would have ended up as athletic champions and bagged the winner’s cheque.

The rest of Uganda employs the formula of: ‘Time = Stress’. Why stress ourselves to get to an appointment for 9:30am when we can get there five hours later? Why go to Cineplex to watch a movie that starts at 7:30pm when you can get there at 8:30pm and catch the last hour of it?

We are Ugandan’s and time is NOT a Ugandan thing or invention rather, it’s a European invention and obsession which, we have no desire in embracing because it’s going to stress us out.

I was due to have a meeting in Speke Resort Munyonyo. The day before the meeting, I sent out two e-mails – one at 11:00am, the other at 5:00pm to Stakeholder. He responded to both of them assuring me that he would be there. And to be on the safe side, at 7:00pm, I followed up the e-mails with a polite call and again, I was assured of his presence the following day.

The following day, I was in the resort at 8:30am which afforded me enough time for a full English breakfast and to ready myself for the meeting.

At 9:30am, Stakeholder had not arrived nor had he by 10:30am. I could have called to find out where he was but I let it slide. Shortly after noon, my Nokia cell phone - an import that Ugandans have embraced, vibrated. It was Stakeholder asking me if the meeting was still on.

I reminded him that the meeting was called for 9:30am and now he calls two-and-a-half hours later to ask if it was still on. His excuse? That I didn’t call him in the morning to re-confirm despite having set him two e-mails and calling him the previous day.

“Oh yes Stakeholder, the meeting is still on. We are merely waiting for you” so I told him with more than a touch of sarcasm to which he replied without a hint of shame, apology or embarrassment that he was on his way.

He was coming from Kawempe – way past the Roko offices and seeing it was lunch time and a jam to consider, I estimated it would take him close to an hour-and-half to get to Munyonyo.    

Eventually at 2:30pm, and a staggering five hours after our scheduled appointment time of 9:30am and after I had had a full English breakfast, drank endless cups of coffee that necessitated marathon trips to the washroom to empty my bladder, read New Vision from cover to cover including all the classified ads, tenders, death announcements and had lunch, he calls from the car park asking where in the resort he could find me.

I was polite and asked him to wait by his car. Then I packed up my stuff, headed to the car park and when I saw him, I shook my head and told him the meeting has just been cancelled.

This is what happened next. He simmered like a saucepan of mushroom soup about to come to the boil. He went livid! He berated me for having wasted his time and fuel in making him drive all the way from Kawempe to Munyonyo for ‘nothing’! And before he drove away, he labelled me as being ‘unserious’!

And this tirade comes from a man who made me wait five hours for him. So you see why the ‘Time = Money’ philosophy does not work for Ugandans but ‘Time = Stress’ does?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Negative People

When most of us celebrate our birthdays, we really have nothing much to celebrate about. Okay, so we are a year older and so what? Most people tend to celebrate birthdays because they have reached the legal age of sexual consent; they are able to drive, and to finally drink beer.
But, some people – very few of us I might add, throw birthday parties for different reasons and they tend to be the affluent.
When Sudhir Ruparelia turned 50, he threw a lavish bash at his resort in Munyonyo and nobody begrudged him. He is after all Sudhir, one of the richest men in East Africa so why not push the boat out, throw a party and revel in his achievements?
Gordon Wavamunno, who also has a hefty bank account, recently threw himself a birthday bash and like Sudhir, no one begrudged him because he has the money and the all too important surname.
But what I don’t understand is why Ugandan society has two sets of rules – one for Sudhir and Wavamunno, and one for the rest of us.
In Uganda, society seemingly does not like young ambitious people. We can’t stand the fact that others have made it and we have not. And because others have made it, we make it our mission to go out of our way to drag them down.
We talk ill of them behind their backs. If a young man who is on his way up the ladder drove up in a Mercedes, the knives would be out for him. “He must have embezzled money” so the whispers would go. And it’s worse if it’s a woman. They would say: “She must be sleeping with some rich married man to afford that Mercedes.”
Enter PK. PK threw a birthday bash a few weeks ago to celebrate his 40th birthday. He didn’t ask his friends to chip in to meet the bill, but out of his own pockets, he paid for the party and invited his friends.
PK was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His parents like most parents, toiled hard to ensure he had a good education. And when he was studying in England, there was no cheque being sent to him at the end of every month by his parents so he did various jobs like we all did – stacking supermarket shelves and so forth.
And when he came back to Uganda he worked his way up the ladder in a number of multi-national companies until he quit and set up his company – Events Warehouse. Since its inception, it has risen to become one of the biggest and successful event firms in Uganda.
So why wouldn’t we be happy for him? Why wouldn’t we be inspired that at 40-years old, he was able to throw for us a lavish bash as he celebrated his achievements?
Most of us like Bob Kabonero, Patrick Bitature, Simon Kaheru, Sandor Walusimbi, Oscar Mulira, Peter Kassedde and many more did.
But there were three rotten apples in the crowd who I suspect were not his friends and had merely crashed the party because they spent most of their time in negative talk. And to be fair to PK and those of us who were genuinely happy for him, there is no need of repeating what they said except to say this:
“If you three rotten apples are reading this column, we and certainly PK do not need your negativity. Everybody at the party was ambitious and full of positive thought except you three. We don’t need your ill talk in our circle because our circle is strictly for progressive people and those with a vision.”

Expelled From School And Sent to Prison

I was fortunate enough, that during my academic career, I was never suspended or expelled from school – not because I was a good boy who to...