On Saturday last week, I posted on my two Facebook walls a picture of my friends and I enjoying a meal of posho and a whole chicken in Lyolwa village in eastern Uganda. The picture attracted a lot of attention/ reactions and some people said “Amos, you are so humble!” Some of the people that know me have generally put me in a certain box in their mind and in that box they have the type of car I should be driving, where I should eat, how I should dress etc.
I have actually never been humble in my life because being humble in Uganda has a very funny meaning....a guy who does not oppose anything, never fights for anything, walks slowly, generally well dressed, smiles when meant to be tough, wants peace when not necessary. I am none of those, buddies!
Back to food, growing up, food was a major challenge in my life and as a young man, I struggled with the fact that I could not access enough to eat, let alone a variety. It became worse when I became a teenager!
From the age of seven, I started understanding a bit about what was going on. I think Uganda had hunger issues years before 1985 and as a child I felt the impact. Hunger for food is not a good thing but hunger for things such as good health and success is good.
Between 1980 and mid 1983, we never ate chicken a lot but the night we did in the village, I remember my sister and I woke up early in the morning and went to look for leftovers. We cracked the bones like crazy and my mum once caught us and administered a few kibokos on our behinds. The bone cracking habit still dies hard for me! My wife and children struggle with it and it has little to do with hunger.
Between 1983 to 1996 while at Tororo Children’s Home where I grew up, chicken could have been on the menu maybe once in all those years combined! We enjoyed our posho, greens and beans! Some of the boys I grew up with can agree with me. For me as a young man, those years were very important in my life because I became a teenager and left being one while in that home.
Our portions were miserable for teenagers! Thankfully Kakungulu, who represented the central colonial government during the colonial era had planted so many mango trees all the way from Tororo to almost Malaba border. Therefore, during mango season, we escaped on weekends to eat mangoes. We would sometimes eat mangoes for five straight hours! How we did that, still puzzles me.
I have a teenage son who needs to eat a lot and mainly because he is a sportsman. You will hear him try to cook something late in the night and his mum and I will pretend to have not heard because he is a teenager and needs lots of food.
Towards the end of 1996 I came to Kampala for adult hustle and having been very poor, with less to eat, inspired me so much. I wanted to badly have good meals out of hard work not emotions! That hunger was important! If hunger cannot inspire you, then nothing can kabisa.
When I started getting my head above the waters, I remained scared of going under again for a very long time. I had set a cost of food above which I could not go... probably until just eight years ago, when I realised I had worked hard enough to eat in a place where hunger found me. If hunger finds me in Kikuubo, I will find a place in Kikuubo and enjoy a meal. If hunger finds me near Serena Hotel, I will drive in and eat. What is also true is that I cannot afford eating in expensive places daily. I earn a salary and I have so many cost centres, which means I cannot afford to be stupid.
I also do not set silly standards for example what cars to drive, clothes to wear, etc. That kind of thinking has driven many people into misery and they will not admit even once. Many Ugandans, not all of course, especially the educated, assume going to school entitles them to certain privileges.
The writer is an investment expert