the old lady vs. three lousy men


Farewell Mama

International Women’s Day had us saying farewell to a grand old lady who lived 102 years and left behind a humble yet powerful legacy as a good mother, devoted wife, committed Christian and one of the most hardworking people in her community. 

One story that stuck about the industrious nature of Tezira Rwabuhungu went back to her time as a young girl in Rwanda, where they used to go out in groups to do communal digging. Because she had a tendency of literally digging from dawn till dusk, people started avoiding her and her group diminished in numbers but she went on tilling the soil. 

One day, a eulogist recounted, she complained that nightfall had come too quickly yet she had been tilling non-stop from early that morning! Another told us how she made the determination after getting married and acknowledging the humble nature of the salary of her Reverand husband, that her family would never want for anything.  

This made her work doubly hard at making handicrafts to increase their domestic income – which she did well into her eighties! 

Her final journey took us to Namutamba, in Mityana, where right at church I met her anti-theses – all three of them men, of varying education levels but similarly humble beginnings.

The first had a kiosk selling fruit right across from the church we were at, which caught my attention because of a recent dietary shift on my part. His prices were half what I meet in Kampala, so I was eager to stock up for the week, but he wasn’t ready to suffer the inconvenience of searching for change. 

After a few minutes of bargaining with him to take more of my money, I realised how ridiculous I sounded and stepped back. But the pull of the fruit was strong, and I felt a duty to change his attitude as well.

So I invited him to cross the road with me to explain that if he created a branch of his kiosk using a table set up in the compound of the church just metres away, he would make enough money for change to not be a problem, since there were hundreds of people from Kampala present. 

He gave me that, “I’ll get back to you” look, walked back to his banana-laden kiosk, and only returned when I sent for him much later on as I was engaged in a one-sided conversation with the second antithesis, a chap called Something Sebuturo. 

Sebuturo burst in on a conversation I was having with Capt. Gad Gasatura about Namutamba’s vast potential for tourism since it contains a wealth of history right in the homes of the people there. Just as we were warming up our theme to package it for the newly-formed Uganda Tourism Board team, Sebuturo arrived, preceded by thick fumes of alcohol. 

Before long we were in stitches as he engaged us in witty Kinyarwanda mixed with Luganda and some Runyoro, and he was so busy chatting he missed out on the bananas being distributed. That’s when I sent for the Kiosk entrepreneur, and the third antithesis to the hard working old lady entered the picture. 

This fellow was called Magango, and joined with the offer to hold the kaveera I was using to gather litter. Out of respect for his obvious age, and with one eye on his neat batik shirt, I protested a little but he brushed aside my protests with the declaration: “Nze njagal’akaveera kano. Tekinzibuwalila ‘kugikwaata!” (‘What I want is the plastic bag; it’s not hard for me to hold.’) 

His breath gave off no alcohol, so I paid him a little more attention and was surprised at the eloquence of his conversation, which included some english words. 

“I did Cambridge exams, you know!” he said at one point, referring to the question papers sent to Uganda by post from Canterbury between the 1960s and 1980s. All this he did while swinging the kaveera of litter, even as he revealed that his father had been a well-respected carpenter in the area.

This was shortly before Sebuturo walked off haughtily after announcing to me, “Alright, I am off – Ushs500 is all I need right now!” and throwing me a disdainful gesture after I dilly-dallied at providing him with said funds.

I was flummoxed.

What had happened to Magango to make a random kaveera such a valuable possession that he would gather up our rubbish? At least Sebuturo’s breath was a pointer to his general disposition, even though he did strike a funny pose standing in the foreground of his brother’s four wheel drive vehicle driving off back to Kampala.

And most of all, I couldn’t understand why was the kiosk seller was NOT selling off all his wares at the funeral of a woman whose work ethic, industry and dedication to service was legendary, at least as a gesture to say: May her soul Rest In Peace.

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