Saturday, January 30, 2016

Will Uganda Embrace Generation X?

Like Teen Kid today, when I was one, I went through a phase where I was scattered. Scattered in that I had no direction, no clue of what to do with life and was just there – or fwafwa as we are now fond of saying. 

After A-levels, a good number of my English friends went off travelling to Asia - not because they had passed exams and Parent was treating them to a holiday, but because they wanted to ‘find themselves’.

How do you just pick up and go with nothing more than a sleeping bag to the villages of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh mbu to find you? I find it hard to grasp that there are people who have no clue of who they are.

In my teen scattered self, I still knew who I was and I am sure that if I had told Parent that I need to go off to India to find myself, alarm bells would have rang all the way to Butabika. Clan elders would also have gathered round the acacia tree in kyalo to get to the root of why one of their own, does not know himself.

Today’s generation has a different kind of scattering and it has to do with sexuality. In my days, girls played with dolls. I didn’t. I played with cars, climbed trees, took dad’s car for a joyride and used to throw the cat off the roof of our double storied home. That’s what boys did. And girls didn’t do boy stuff.

Nor did we look at girls and harbour ideas of wearing dresses, skirts, knickers or bras - or want to have to sit down when we went for a pee like they did, because we were boys – Period! We also didn’t feel that whilst we were in Mother’s womb, there was a mix up and that we were supposed to have been born female and not male or vice versa.

Enter the Transgender. While Ugandans skirt all transgender talk, in the UK, it’s a big political issue and out in the open. Maria Miller is an MP and also chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Select Committee. In that capacity, she recently produced a report declaring that every person over 16 should be able to change their gender at will.

Her committee also says that people should not have to record their sex as male or female on passports and other official documents, because it infringes the human rights of the ‘trans’ community or Generation X in my books.

Instead so she argues, they should be able to put an X on their passports in the box marked ‘gender’. I think we had better take a breather before we continue?

You got your breath back? Moving on in 2008, Britain’s Manchester University re-designated its toilets to accommodate Generation X. The following year, the first purpose-built ‘non-discriminatory’ public toilets opened in East Sussex, in the teeth of fierce local opposition.

There is a dilemma. The norm today is that during a crisis – evacuation, burning ship or whatever, it is the children that are evacuated first - followed by the women with the men bringing up the rear. Now that there is Generation X, where do they fit in the evacuation pecking order?  Will they want to jump the queue and fit themselves between women and men?   

Society is not as straight forward as it was 50-years ago and I say what happens behind the walls of your home is your business. However, I was brought up in a world order where men co-exist with women and in my wildest dreams I never thought or imagined a Generation X in this world.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Let's Nurture Uganda's Talent

How do we define success? Is it the job and title? Is it our standing in society or, the amount of money that’s deposited into our bank account at the end of the month?

I am sure you have all had Mum and Dad nag you with this line: “If you study hard and go to Makerere, you will get a job and be successful.”

When it came to jobs, it was not just any job. It had to be from that select pool of jobs, which would give Parent a reason to brag to their friends. You had to be a banker, dentist, lawyer, doctor – if not, an engineer or architect for example. It also had to be a Makerere degree and not one from Nkumba, Kyambogo, Ndejje which, Parent looks down on.

I think we are all born with a talent and if that talent is nurtured from an early age, there is a chance that, that talent can bloom into a successful career.

Mr. Ras, like Danny Barongo, who used to draw my TB cartoons in Sunday Vision are two of the most talented men in the media industry. They both have wit, humour and the ability to conjure up a cartoon or illustration that depicts a news story or article.

Yet, I know of Parent who looks at them as time wasters. They say to me: “TB that Ras man, how do his parents feel having spent money on his education and all he does is draw pictures like Granddaughter does at day care?” Hmm! Though I tell them that Mr. Ras and other cartoonists earn big dime, they still frown on the idea of ‘grown men playing with crayons for a living’.

Joseph Opio, was a quiet sports journalist at New Vision. He knew his sports especially his football that I am sure the greater Opio clan blew the family trumpet about their son working at New Vision.

But there was more to Opio than writing about football. He had a knack for Ebisesa (comedy). When he was doing his comedy act at National Theatre and other places, I didn’t think anything would amount to it. And when he went AWOL from the sports desk, apart from his colleagues, I don’t think HR noticed he’d gone.

So what happened to him? He hit the big time – not as a sports writer, but as a writer for The Daily Show. He now lives in New York and what the sports desk was paying him in a year, he probably now earns in a month.

Trevor Noah, who took over from Jon Stewart is funny – but not in his own right. It’s our talented Joseph Opio, David Kibuuka, who behind the scenes, along with others who do the writing for the show. Where Noah comes in, is in the art of delivery.

Let’s call her Esther Mirembe or That Writer Chic. I don’t think writing is her first choice as a career direction. I have though seen her writing and got to say she has talent about her. With enough encouragement, she could go on to build a successful career as a writer, author or journalist.

I don’t subscribe to old school Parent thinking. I reckon if Kid is not good at academics so be it, but don’t put them down. Kid may show talent in other things – football, athletics, drama and even comedy, so nurture the talent in them for who knows - when they grow up, Kid could be the next Thierry Henry in football or Serena Williams in tennis or Lewis Hamilton in Formula One. Success is not all about Makerere or having CEO as a job title. But then again, that’s my opinion.      



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Farewell Our Brother Shantilal ‘Sam’ Patel

At Speke Resort, Munyonyo, there is a lush and neatly manicured garden and at its entrance, is a brass plaque that reads - Sam’s Green.

In 1998, Speke Resort was nothing more than a barren track of land that played host to motor sport rally sprints. But in the middle of that barren track of land - now known as Sam’s Green, there stood a weather beaten 40-foot container that churned out burgers and sold the odd cold drink. The man running the container was Shantilal ‘Sam’ Patel.

If I recall, he wore a hat which was almost as weather beaten as the container itself, an apron that bore traces of tomato sauce, mustard and slices of onions that had been wiped onto it. He stood there with a puzzled look – perhaps wondering if I had any intention of placing an order or, if I was merely gawping at what on earth he was doing in the middle of nowhere selling burgers.

I was of course gawping, but I did place an order. Eventually we talked and I found Sam laid back, relaxed and at ease with what he was doing in Uganda.

Though he dabbled in property, Sam was a restaurateur at heart and his Bombo Road restaurant – aptly named Sam’s, was a favourite with Kampalan’s especially at a time when people didn’t eat out and fine cuisine was all but unheard of. 

It was next to impossible to dine at Sam’s and walk out without popping into Your Choice that sat within the complex. Sam was always there if not, in the restaurant. He liked to talk and whatever conversation that was settled upon – be it politics or the state of the roads, Sam would always swirl it round to the subject he loved best – food and the need for Uganda to have places where people can go and eat good food in a good environment.

Sam’s was the talk of town. It was the hottest restaurant in town, and when he sold up, many of his patrons were taken by surprise. I was beside myself because I was a regular there. Months earlier over coffee, he had mumbled something about a place he was opening just down the road from State House, Nakasero. Yes he mumbled, because he often put a hand over his mouth whenever he spoke though at the time he was telling me about his new venture, I wasn’t too sure if it was his usual mumble or, a hush hush mumble because he didn’t want people to know his new restaurant was literally at the gates to State House.        

The new restaurant – Faze II opened to rave reviews and was so successful, it spawned Faze III in Entebbe. Because it was Sam, only he could pull it off. He drew and charmed the corporate world as well as serenading just about everybody who walked through the gates. Most evenings, you would find him sitting at his table with his better half – Linda, who was an immense pillar of strength whom he relied on. Occasionally he would get up to show a waiter how it’s done or go over to placate a disgruntled diner.

We always remember Sam at the first Kampala Marathon in 2004, when he was doing the catering for the MTN hospitality tent. Along with Thomas Bragaw the then MTN CEO and his wife Linda, Tina Byaruhanga, Erik van Veen, Gasper Mbowa, Andrew Wandera, Patrick Oyulu and a few others, at 7:30am, Sam shouts out to us. “There’s no point standing there all idle when an English breakfast is about to be served and cold Tuskers await Tim”. He didn’t have to tell me twice.

A group of close knit friends and I, who bonded under the name Contenass, one day approached Sam and asked if he could do a whole roast pig for us – something that was not available on the Faze II menu. He took us by surprise with an instant yes answer and thus every three months we would gather, catch up, drink and laugh into the night.

I am sure that wherever Peter Odoki, Guma Kaganzi, David Katanywa, Ian Ibaarah, Joel Wanduka, Oyulu, Richard Maitum, Rukaaka Muguzi, Raymond Byarugaba, Andrew Matsiko, Allan Oguttu, Brian Kasente, Mark Rumanyika, Mark Rwomushana, Peter Ofong, Richard Okuti, Ambrose Senoga, Adrian Mugasha, Paul Katarikawe, Pius Kwesiga, Tendo Kabenge, Steven  Katiewaho, Paul and Simon Kaheru and Sandor Walusimbi are today, they will take a minutes silence to pause and toast to Sam, for he made those pork sessions a memorable Friday night outing for us all.

And let’s not forget the legendary let’s get sloshed cook-outs at Munyonyo with former Nile Bank MD, Anton Bently, Martin and Camille Aliker, Richard Byarugaba (now MD, NSSF) amongst others where we feasted on pork that fell off the bone and made merry way into the night.

Sam felt at home in Uganda and I guess even if he was abandoned in the Brazilian rainforests or in the Namib Desert, he would have no difficulty in making friends or setting up a restaurant. 

Sam, who died after a short illness at his home in Makyinde on Wednesday 20th, January, was a friend to everybody and I can honestly say I never heard anybody talk ill of him or tarnish his name in the 16 years that I knew him. If he had any regrets, then I guess it was the ill advised decision to sell the 'Sam’s' brand name when he sold the restaurant.

An abridged version of this tribute appears in New Vision, Friday, 22nd January.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Roasting In Hell With Mulokole, Pastor and Squeaky Clean

2016 is not getting off to a good start. Over the past four weeks, I have been consumed by morbid thoughts, as well as feelings about death.

I know that I am going to have to die and sometimes, I take the notion in my stride. Other days, I wake up petrified in a cold sweat, that I spend the rest of the day wondering how I am going to exit this world.

I used to be a frequent flyer so dying in a plane crash was my way out. However, I don’t fly much these days. The next obvious exit was in a car crash because of my love for speed. Tirinyi road to Mbale – if not, the road to Fort Portal were the two likely roads that would have taken my life.

But since I gave up speeding, I don’t know what Grim Reaper has in store as a ‘Plan C’, and that gets me all worked up.

One thing about death that I am so certain about is that, I don’t want to go to Heaven. Heaven has been painted as the ‘land of paradise’ where people who have been good on this earth - the Mulokole, Pastor and Squeaky Clean, will sit in the Garden of Eden listening to Angles in their white robes playing the harp, take leisurely strolls and of course, a meet-and-greet and selfie time with Jesus and God – if they do exist.

I am not sure I would be able to take in the boredom of spending my days chatting away with the goodie-two-shoes who made it to Heaven like Mother Theresa, Sister Nirmala, Florence Nightingale, an endless line of Popes, Nelson Mandela et al.

What would we talk about? Mother Theresa is hardly going to tell me koona awoo when I tell her about my wild nights in Club Silk or my pork fests – is she? Nor would I find the work she did with the poor remotely interesting. And the stream of Popes? Apart from asking them if they ever felt like cutting a Sunday mass to watch TV, I would have bleak to say.

Hell on the other hand, holds an obvious attraction. I would be with the bad boys and the list is endless - Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Gadaffi...all who died leaving unanswered questions. Can you imagine them sitting round a table debating who unleashed the worst atrocities or telling us what their Plan B escape plan was if they had known Plan A was going to be a gruesome end? I can.

There is, a BUT which, is still at the research stage. Some Muslims claim that if you become a martyr, God rewards you with 72 virgins which, makes it a worthy plot if the rules can be bent for me because – 1. I really don’t want to take the suicide vest and blowing up people route because, recently when a would-be Afghan’s Suicide Bombers vest didn’t go off, when searched, they found his genitals encased in a box built like a safe. When asked why, he said: “I didn’t want to get to Heaven, get my virgins and only to find my ‘thingy’ had been blown up beyond repair”. That calls for an ‘ouch’!  – don’t you think? 2. What if I get there and they are not supermodel virgins but rotund mamas with beards and rotting teeth?

If I do end up in Hell, before I am marinated and thrown onto the bonfire to roast for my sins, I would ask the management of Hell if I could be excused for a week so I can return to Sunday Vision and write my last column. The headline would read: “Uganda’s Top 200 Balokole’s,Pastors and mbu Squeaky Clean Pretenders Who Thought They Would Go To Heaven But Ended Up in Hell!” 

Friday, January 8, 2016

January - The Month of Living On Banja

There is something about the first two weeks of January that makes it as depressing as watching the most daft man from Kiboga district trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together with a piece that has a straight edge into the centre of the puzzle and wondering why it just won’t fit.

This month, January that it, three things will grip us – When is the next public holiday? How do I find the millions of shillings for Junior’s school fees? How will I survive to the end of the month because I have already blown my December pay? But, it’s Fat Person who we shall be looking at as we watch them trying to pluck up the courage to sign up at a gym in a bid to shed the lard.

It’s not politically correct to refer to Fat Person as fat person. The word to use, so I am told, is ‘overweight’. But the reality of it all is they are fat, just like out there, there are skinny people and who don’t go throwing tantrums because they have been called skinny.

I am blessed. I don’t get fat no matter what I eat. Thus, I will never know what fat people go though when they wheeze as they struggle to walk up the stairs, or to constantly sweat. Neither will I go through the anguish they feel when upon entering a taxi, everybody is secretly hoping that they (Fat Person), does not sit next to them.

But after the excesses of Christmas, Fat Person has to do something about the weight. That means for the best part of January and as we lean folk whose bellies are devoid of a beer belly drive home in air con rides, we shall see Fat Person sweating and straining in last year’s MTN marathon t-shirt jogging home or exercising at Kololo airstrip  – if not, walking about in the neighbourhood.

But the funny thing about Fat Person is that, there is a group who like to walk round Kololo airstrip and then drive home thinking they have achieved something. Fat Person, listen up here. Walking is not an exercise. It does nothing for you, nor is it a sport. I know it’s featured in the Olympic Games, but do you think an invite to State House is going to be in the offering because you got a gold medal for walking? I don’t think so. Do you think we will swarm Entebbe Airport to meet you when you come walking out of immigration with the medal draped round your neck? No. The only person that I can think of, and who has made a name for himself through walking, is of course, Johnnie Walker – hear, hear!.  

But while Fat Person struggles to deal with his weight issues, the rest of us will be thinking about school fees and where the money is going to come from. I don’t know which economist or payroll clerk invented the idea of paying December pay before Christmas, but he goofed because the average person blows his December pay way before December is over.

January is the ku banja month where we shop on a banja basis. While getting groceries on banja to tide us through till the end of the month is a tight affair because Market Trader deals only in cash transactions, getting drinks on banja at the local kafunda is the norm and a relatively easy affair. We all have a special relationship with Kafunda Owner for such emergencies and if you see me swing a round this month, just know it was a tight, a very tight round to swing. However, Junior’s school will not accept him for the new term on banja.  

Beware of Girlfie With The Fake Hymen!

I bought the watch from Hawker at Valley Point, Ntinda, in good faith. It was a Casio and after a haggle, I got it at a good price. When I got home and took a closer look at it, it didn’t read Casio, but Gasio. The G was so subtle and made to look like a C. Three days later, Gasio, decided to stop telling me the time.

We have all bought something fake at some point and especially from the Chinese. However, the trade in fake goods thrives because of the demands of the fairer sex. SJP in the TV series, Sex and the City tells us that when it comes to handbags and accessories, women will die for anything by Louis Vuitton. A Vuitton handbag starts at $5,000 – a price most women can’t afford so they make do with fakes.

Fakes don’t stop at handbags but encompass eyelashes, hair, nails, boobs, noses, lips, bottoms and more.

Last year, bottom implants and lifts were the second and third fastest growing plastic surgery procedures. Bottom augmentation with fat grafting – where fat is pulled out of one area of the body and injected into the backside also rose by 15%.

But Bushenyi Woman, or Bunyoro Woman or Kigezi Woman need not worry, for bless them, they come born with bottom implants already installed and activated – so I assume. It be the women from Maadi, Kitgum, Koboko, Gulu who traditionally have a zero butt that have to look  £1,750 (sh8.6m)+, being the cost to have all sorts of fats and silicones injected into their bottoms that do not sit right.

However, for those who can’t raise the money, worry not. Kikkubo Woman Trader, (near Tourist Hotel) has imported fake butt underwear, and it’s the cheaper option. It comes in various sizes and is worn as you would normal knickers – except when you in the club, Kampala Road or the taxi-park and we men grab it for a squeeze, it won’t excite for it has a bland back-to-school pillow feel about it.

Fake body parts don’t end with the bottom, nose, boobs or fingernails. There is more, and it might be a good idea to send House-ee to the duuka for a muzinga ofUg Wa to get you through the last part of the column    

Virginia Care, a German company is selling – wait for it, wait for it - fake hymens that burst and spill fake blood to trick husbands into thinking she is a virgin. Virginia Care offers a package of two ultra-thin membranes that women can insert into themselves to make it appear that their hymen is not broken. Each membrane consists of two cellulose skins between which a sterile, freeze-dried blood powder has been injected.

There are two types: Virginia Care Original, which produces a red-brown colour aimed at in-laws for the day after to prove virginity and one that gives a ‘fresh-blood’ look to convince a new husband.

The membranes fix themselves in place using the warmth and moisture inside the woman’s body, and then when it is broken during sex, the blood mixture provides ‘evidence’ that she is a virgin.

Gentlemen, with all that, we have to question the composition of Girlfie, Wifey and FiancĂ©e  – even the wholesome full bodied women from Bushenyi or Bunyoro, Matugga, Ku Biiri Stage on Gayaza Road because today, this is how your average woman is built. Choke on this.

Boobs – Silicon Valley, USA
Hymen – Hamburg, Germany
Hair - Philippines/Malaysia
Nails – Mexico
Butt – Organic and harvested from thighs
Eyelashes – United Kingdom
Lips – Silicon Valley, USA

In ten years time, you will find there is no real Girlfie or Wifey. Rather, they will be imports and displayed on the shelves of Nakumatt and not in the club, church or next village.  

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...