Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Do You Talk To Your Level?

According to the financial bible – Forbes Magazine that is, Sudhir Ruparelia is worth $1.2billion and rakes in $600m a year from his rental properties.

My net worth is laughable so I was rather miffed when he invited me to a ‘celebration and networking party’ a few weeks ago. Now what kind of conversation was I expected to have with him?

I thought about it before I turned up at Kabira Club and I was determined to let him direct the flow of the conversation. Once the niceties of: “Good evening Mr. Ruparelia” where out of the way, it suddenly dawned on us that there might be ‘conversation issues’. This was my planned conversation.

Should I ask him if he has physically seen the $1.2billion? If he has, how long did it take the bank teller to count the money? Did the money counting machine burn out under the strain of $1.2billion? And is it a clear cut figure of $1.2billion or is it really more like $1.2billion and 40 or 60 cents?

This is what the common man wants to know and wants to ask him, but he is probably thinking about the bigger picture like moving say $1million into treasury bonds – whatever they may be.

I didn’t get to ask those questions but instead congratulated him on his success and scoured the room looking for my level.

I ended up with the very polished Aliker’s – Martin and Camille. Martin is a distinguished man, a man of principle and a man reeking in a wealth of wisdom and has sat as a chairman on most company boards in Uganda. And he is wealthy too, despite not having his name in Forbes.

So what should I jazz about with him? Aliker is witty and has a sharp sense of humour. I realized that I had to keep up with him otherwise whatever he was telling me was bound to skirt over my head. And when it comes to wine, if you don’t know a thing about wine (I don’t) but you are trying to impress him because he too is drinking wine, DON’T! He will strip you bare and make you look as stupid as that man in the red shirt in Namuwongo who thinks Dr. Ian Clarke introduced Irish potatoes to Uganda simply because he (Clarke) is Irish.

At another party, there was Gordon Wavamunno.  Like any other millionaire, you can’t pull the wool over his eyes. He is street savvy, and has been there and done it. Talking with him, we talked about cars – not Toyota or Mitsubishi but Mercedes Benz of course. And his book collection. And his antique furniture. Gordon is an avid reader and his head is filled with facts and if you thought that being a graduate would impress him, it won’t. He will blank you like he blanked Chap who bragged about how he went to university in Scotland and now wants a job in Spear Motors.

Behind us was Emmanuel Katongole, of Quality Chemicals and Vero Water. Emmanuel is a man who studies the scene. When I got into a conversation with him, it was on an international level. He talked about dinners and meetings with the Prime Minister – not our Amama Mbabazi but the likes of Rajib Razak of Malasyia and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore. Hmm, what was I supposed to say to that but shut up?

Then Waiter, who is an aspiring artiste, comes up to me and starts talking about music. As he continues with his rounds he gives me a CD to pass on to Mwoze and Weasel. Are Waiter, Mwoze and Weasel my level? I think I have to re-market myself – don’t you think?            

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When Marketing Goes Wrong

What don’t we grasp about marketing? Just past Speke Resort in Munyonyo, is Mulungu or Kabaka’s Landing Site (KLS). I don’t know why they call it KLS and sought to find out. However nobody seemed to know why except, that Kabaka landed there but no one knows which Kabaka it was – Mutebi or one of his predecessors.

There is nothing to tell Granny about KLS except, that come Sunday’s, Rasta and anybody with a ‘dope’ motorbike flocks there to smoke marijuana, drink kasese, fondle and grope Fishmongers Wife.

Rasta and Dope Biker aside, what takes sane people to KLS is the fresh and cheap fish. At the entrance to KLS, Woman Marketer swamps you to buy Fishmonger’s Wife’s fish.

She is not the best marketer because in a take-it-or-leave-it attitude she barks: “Fish - boiled, fried or grilled. Which do you want?” Nor is she bothered if the table you sit at is clean as long as you order from her and not the competition.

She makes a killing for every weekend, KLS is packed to the rafters. However, one thing they don’t have, are toilets. Men have to pee on the fish entrails at the edge of the lake, while I am told women squat and pee in basins. Ouch!

A few weeks ago, along with Kayos, Doc and Stella (friends who want to see their names appear in the paper – bless them) we were hosted to a fish dinner at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel by Grace Moreno, a Filipino who knows more about fish than Fishmongers Wife.

At KLS if you asked for lobster, squid or tuna, Fishmongers Wife would give you a blank stare because she has never heard of them and all she knows is Talapia or Nile Perch – unless of course, she has done some Google-ing. Might she have heard of Google? Tight.

Obviously it would be hard to make comparison between Marketing Girl at KLS and Moreno at the Sheraton but in some ways their paths do cross.

Marketing Girl at KLS is raw and aggressive. She is devoid of class and uses fish entrails for perfume. She is adorned in a white blood splattered apron and a white net on her head. She has no time for the finesse that Moreno has – the small talk about where the fish was caught or how long it took to get the lobster from the sea and into the kitchen. I am sure if I had asked, Moreno would probably have told me the number of scales on each of the fish on display while Fishmongers Wife would bark that she’s not here to count scales but sell fish.

Marketing in Uganda is haphazard. How does Fishmongers Wife at KLS expect to attract more customers when she doesn’t have toilets? Or take orders with fingers coated in entrail slime or dipping her hand into her bra to adjust a misbehaving boob? Perhaps that is why Moreno, the South Africans’ and the Kenyans’ are making a good living in Uganda with their marketing skills.

While it was cheaper to have had the Talapia from Lake Victoria, Moreno sold us lobster all the way from Mombasa at a hefty price because she had excellent marketing skills, it was worth the cost and it was better than fighting off the blue pit latrine flies that swarm your fish no sooner has it been served and having to pee or squat on fish entrails with the odd fish eye looking up at you at KLS. The eye that looked up at me as I peed unnerved and gave me goose pimples. I think it was a mudfish eye.                    


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Growing Old Can Be Bliss

The last time I was with Zimbabwe’s President, Rob Mugabe, it was at the African Union Summit at Speke Resort Munyonyo some years ago. Okay, I lie, I wasn’t really with him. I was standing at the entrance to the conference hall when he walked past and rather embarrassingly for me, he didn’t acknowledge me.
Mugabe is in his 80s and save for his knees giving him problems, everything else is in order. He has the same drive that he had thirty years ago. Looking at him up close, he’s aged gracefully. When I zeroed in to have a close look at his scalp before his bodyguards bundled me away, he doesn’t appear to dye his hair, he has not had a facelift nor does being old bother him.
Many people out there are petrified of growing old. Women, the moment and for the lack of a better word to use, if the ‘twins’ on their chests start to sag, they run for the surgeon’s knife and if they can’t afford the surgeon’s knife, they wear Wonder bra’s to uplift the them or resort to plastic surgery as another option.
I am getting older by the day that my 30-year-old ‘goatee’ is awash with white hair which, I won’t shave off even though I get looks of: “Eh, what is Jajja doing here” whenever I walk into Club Silk. And my scalp too, is also bristling with white hair and whatever Club Silk Teen may say, I will not dye it to look younger.
I’ve been helping out Friend with some work at his Wandegeya office and from his window on the second floor, you can peer into Neighbour’s house and see everything they get up to. Neighbour has two teen daughters who persist in having their morning showers on the veranda blissfully unaware that from the tinted window of Friends office, I can see them lather themselves with soap while water cascades down their nubile bodies. I am drooling as I type.
Teen Daughters have no trace of ageism on them. They don’t need to wear Wonder bra’s to prop up their twins and they have many years ahead of them before strands of white hair peek out.
Obviously I made it a point of getting to his office as early as possible – not to ogle at them (I swear!) but to reminisce, to feel young again. Then one weekend they moved. Just like that without even a farewell shower. Days later, the new tenants moved in with no teen daughters.
They are an elderly couple and I mean a very elderly couple. In the past two weeks, nobody appears to have visited them and they don’t seem to have family or kids who pop in to check on them. It’s just Jajja Boy and Jajja Girl as Gaana and Natal call my parents.
Despite a thick mop of white hair coupled with arthritis and much more that’s tormenting Jajja Boy, he sits and talks with his wife. If not, she reads to him. On one occasion when the top part of her gomesi fell open revealing her sagged twins, twins that even a Wonder bra can no longer help, he pointed to them, smiled and whispered something. She blushed.
Watching them, they delight in being old. She is unperturbed that he didn’t dye his white hair, has arthritis and that she has to read to him because his sight is failing. He too is happy with her sagged twins that Wonder bra cannot help and that she didn’t have plastic surgery.
However, if only they had family to check in on them, I would sleep better knowing they are ok.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Daylight Robbery

The word ‘thief’, has been redefined. When I was growing up, Thief stalked the night by breaking into homes, cars and offices and making off with whatever he thought was of value to him. And if you dared take him on, there was a good chance of being roughed up or being killed.

Today however, there is a new kind of thief out on the prowl. This new breed of thief does not wait till the dead of the night before breaking into houses with metal bars and carting away your hard earned households. And he won’t stick you up as you wait in the car at the traffic lights or in a traffic jam. He does it as you watch and with seemingly no effort at all. I am into fountain pens and this is what happened last Thursday as I was making some notes.

Thief: “Eh TB, you have a nice pen, what make is it?”

TB: “It’s a Parker 45 and writes well. I think it’s one of the best fountain pens in the Parker range.”

Thief: “Hmm, am I not going to take it? You can always get another one.”

I didn’t think much about it and once I was done with the notes, I tucked Parker 45 into the breast pocked on my shirt and poured myself another drink. We talked for a while and when he got up to go, he lent forward, reached over the table and extracted Parker 45 from my pocket while muttering the words: “I almost forgot my pen.”

I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. And just like that, he ambled over to his ride with not a care in the world and was gone leaving me bewildered. I let it slide.

James was robbed of 5k airtime when Woman Friend simply picked up his airtime and loaded it onto her phone because, ‘he had enough to spare.’

Waitress had brought James 20k worth of airtime but seeing the shop didn’t have a 20k card, she returned with four cards in 5k denominations. As he loaded the first of the cards, nonchalantly Woman Friend said: “Eh, James but you, how can you load all that airtime when I have none? I had better load otherwise there will be nothing left for me.” With that, she picked up a card, scratched off the foil and started loading. And the beauty about it all, ‘thank you’ was not a word she offered once she’d loaded nor did she think she had done anything wrong.

The real winner though, is a chap called Andy who is my tight – no sorry, WAS my tight. I was meeting up with the boys and fancied some pork spare ribs from the Chinese restaurant across the road. I went to great lengths to turn up late and placed my order after I knew they had eaten so I didn’t have to share the ribs with them.

When the ribs arrived, Andy was also walking in along with Wifey who, he chose to tuck away and in the furthest corner of the bar. No sooner had he joined us, than he reached over and picked one my ribs. Then he picked another. And another. Licking his fingers, he stood up, walked to have a word with Wifey then returned with a side plate.

It was theft of the worst kind. Without asking, he scooped some ribs onto the side plate and went to feed them to Wifey. This calls for a WTF outburst doesn’t it?!

Returning, he picked up another rib then said: “Wifey was doing badly, she hadn’t had lunch!”
Now you know how the new breed thief operates.          

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...