Modern living turns villager’s dream into nightmare

Author: Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • After a long stay away from Kalungu, he could not believe that the gods had given him what he asked for when he left for Kampala. He is no longer the villager who only wore underwear and shoes on special occasions. He is now living as a modern slave.

When he left for Kampala from Bukulula in Kalungu, two decades ago, Desiderio Buzzabalyawo vowed that he was buying a one way ticket out of poverty.

Having lived all his life in the rural settings of the provinces he did everything under the skies that peasants do to get by. Drawing water from distances, hewing wood, eating leftovers, tilling the land for food, looking after animals and dreaming one day to ride a motorbike or a bicycle of his own.

He also took seriously the advice of the village priest, who topped up his tuition at the missionary school. ‘Take advantage of education to get yourself out of the village and into prosperity.’ At the University he struggled everyday to climb several mountains while moonlighting as a hawker and a primary school teacher. He kept out of the social scene and away from all distractions, read hard and is now lawyering in town.

Fast forward to his first job. The brilliant young man was told that if he wanted to go anywhere, he had to look every inch like one in the noble profession. He had to banish the mentality of wearing cheap, second-hand, mismatched suits, shirts and shoes bought downtown. The wheels one parked at a client’s office also mattered. Where one hangs out, was equally important. Then where one stayed and of course who he decided to date and marry.

Buzzabalyawo was now in the middle of the big dusty city earning money he had never held or dreamt of in his early life in Bukulula. He never forgot about the one way ticket.

By now he had cut his name short to sound more modern and easier to remember. His business cards read ‘Buzz D. Mukasa.’ On one of the nights when he was having a drink at the Kampala Sheraton he caught the eye of a young lady.

Four months later she was pregnant. Being from a family with strong Christian roots, they had to make things official very quickly to avoid bringing shame and ignominy to the church of Christ.

The lavish pre-wedding traditional ceremonies set Buzz back by several millions. The young lady and her family insisted that they had to be fitting for their ‘name’. If a man could not afford at this stage then it was not worth their while. So the catering, decor, music and live performances by city musicians went onto the programme.

Then the young lady as an afterthought (she saw a picture on social media of one of her friends at the Eiffel Tower in France) asked Buzz to propose to her while on one knee like it happens in the movies. He was okay with it only that she requested it be done at the top of the towering Petronas Towers in Malaysia. She sulked and cajoled and they settled for the Burj Khalifa in the UAE.

After splashing the photos on social media, then came the wedding proper. The young lady had to get a bridal shower. It spread over two days with about a dozen of her friends. They were booked into a hotel and needed some matching outfits and night dresses.

The wedding was another round of ostentation. The dressing, cars, music, food and decor you name it. Soon after the wedding the baby was on the way. So as is the wont  there was a baby shower which rivaled the bridal shower only that it took a day as the mother to be was getting heavy and slow. A few months after delivery there was another small but elaborate ceremony called  ‘the gender reveal.’ Apparently a friend organised it for her to announce the gender of her child. Buzz footed the bill!

There was no taking chances since this was her first delivery and could not be left to the often lackadaisical Ugandan health care system. She had to be flown to the US for safety and also take a gamble on acquiring American citizenship by birth. (The other three deliveries were no different.)

There was tension when, as is the norm, the grandfather of the child named him after a great grandfather. ‘Muteesangula’ which in English translates ‘the one who does not wipe themselves,’ put Madam off. She complained that in future the child will be teased for having a funny name, besides ‘it did not sell,’ whatever the familial significance. So they agreed with Buzz to use Mukasa on his official documents. To this she added Kylian and Jameson after her favorite drink. So they stopped going to Kalungu for Christmas and instead opted for holidays abroad. (That marked the end of the ‘cultural nonsense,’ of grandpa naming his grandchildren.)

When it came to time for school it had to be an international school where the fees are paid in US dollars. This was to ensure that the child grew up in an environment of people with a brighter future. It is called building social capital and social networks.

The Mukasas have to attend all sorts of social gatherings to keep in circulation and not be left behind. So Miss Uganda, the goat races, you name it are all on the cards even if Buzz has no interest. They have to go with the trends even when it comes to the health of the children. One small cough and they are off to see a specialist. He gives the children a cannula and packs them loads of expensive medicine to cure the infection.

There must be money set aside for pedicure, manicure, spa and saloon treatment either in one of the upscale locations in town or the mobile treatment finds madam at a place of her convenience. Buzz has now mastered the difference between wigs, Brazilian hair, extensions, retouch and all. He knows about lotions and perfumes which he  orders and pays for with his credit card.

The shopping must be done in the upscale supermarkets in town where the cost of a tomato would get one 10 in the local market.  Dinners that consist of lots of expensive fried food are enjoyed and packed from eateries in town. Then the fats are shed off in a gym at an international hotel where exclusive membership does not come cheap. Every opportunity to have a celebration comes with a big party with outside catering, bouncing castles and the like. The same applies to changing clothes, shoes, European cars and other modern gadgets like mobile phones, tablets and televisions sets. They must, as much as possible, keep abreast with the latest trends.

Standing at the grave of his father, Buzzabalaywo remembered what the old man cautioned about debts and living within one’s means at all costs. After a long stay away from Kalungu, he could not believe that the gods had given him what he asked for when he left for Kampala. He is no longer the villager who only wore underwear and shoes on special occasions. He is now living as a modern slave.

It is a complicated life where for one to fit in society they must accept and absorb excessive pressure to earn and spend money they may not have, on things they may not even need.

That moment the court bailiff called. Buzz asked him to be humane because he had lost his father. He promised to get the money very soon to pay the bank loan.

Twitter: @nsengoba


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