I didn’t see you as a young girl; not only because I joined the big family crew many years later but also because by the time I began comprehending things, you had moved to live with our grannies at the famous Rwenshinya Hill. I can’t possibly remember the first time we officially met, the earliest clear memory I have is when I came visiting to Rwenshinya and you drew me along as you went shopping to Bushenyi town. That was around 1994.
That day is so vivid in my memory and on my timeline because it was my first time to go to a town having lived all my early childhood years in our shielded but rather tranquil and rustic village. I had always viewed Bushenyi town from Rwenshinya Hill that stood like it’s spiral arm; the sound of trucks, the hooting sound of the famous ‘Burangyiti’ and ‘Enkombe Yanyu’ buses, the tall glittering buildings with ‘amashanyarazi’, the sound of loud music (ebidongo), all had kept me curiously intrigued and anxiously nervous.
No one had bothered to take the little, short and stout (then) boy from ‘Kibingo’ to see the marvels of the urban setup. It was never important to them or the little boy was simply invisible. You delivered my dream, I remember clearly people asking why you actually were dragging the little boy with you to town. Inside my heart I was deep down on my knees because that was going to be the second time my dream would be shuttered after previously a one Aunt Kidaada hulled me off the back of a pickup truck that would go through town to Bweranyangi as Kunkuru and Shwenkuru (our grand parents) celebrated 50 years in their marriage. You somehow defied the forces and took me along anyway. So you saved me what would qualify as a curse! You were the only person, apart from dad and mum, who believed in me at that stage when I was simply indiscernible.
My maiden trip to town was indeed one of the most awesome things that ever happened to me as a child. It sparked my curiosity and planted in me the seed of adventure. I remember ogling at just about everything in sheer awe and wonder, I didn’t want to ask many questions so I simply indulged and recorded everything and every moment as a movie on my mind. I wanted to draw my own presumptions, I didn’t care whether they would turn out right or wrong, but I simply wanted to fathom things my own way. When indeed we returned to Rwenshinya and the people at home (my cousins) asked me what I had seen, I told them, with a lot of exhilaration, that ‘aba Kayanja ba’wayaringa’ (the Kayanja evangelists who apparently had a crusade in town had wired!); little did I know that I was describing the copper wires for hydro electric power that run all the way from Owen Falls Dam in Jinja. Everyone tittered and made fun out of that, only to leave me in utter belittlement. You didn’t! Because you only could understand me at that point when I stood on an ostensibly gullible spot. You only could comprehend the virtuoso in the little boy!
The next day I would set on the 15km or so trek to return to my cradle village. I always felt bad leaving, not because the life in Rwenshinya and the proximity to town seemed better and therefore luring, but because I always wanted to spend more time with you but I couldn’t. So I always looked forward to an opportunity to visit Rwenshinya so I could see you. Because for me, you embodied the icon of fine living, refinement, success and good fortune. You were so different from the rest of our siblings and cousins that you naturally and effortless earned my deepest respect and desire to be around. Unfortunately, the opportunity would only come like summer rain in the desert. Even when we seemingly lived together for one year in 1996, you only appeared like a candle in the wind because you were always at school or away to Rwenshinya for the holidays. And you would henceforward disappear, literally eternally, to go and study in Kampala.
I always looked forward to a day you came home, many times I could never get the opportunity to see you when you came for I could hear that you stopped on the famous hill and returned to Kampala. And even when you came home, it would be for a very short time; an overnight or simply hours. Your visits were always bittersweet; because they would bring another chance for me to share life with the very finest, which however, always disappeared as a mirage and left me disillusioned. I can’t explain the feeling I always got when you were around; all I know is that my brain grew millions of new neurons during your few short-lived visits.
I don’t remember us sitting down to talk, for your visits were characteristically short and everyone coveted your courtesy. But there was always that invisible connection that even when we didn’t sit down to indulge and soak into each other, we intuitively communicated.
So later when I would come to Kampala as I joined college, we would effortless slip into each other’s lives. I got to experience, almost on a daily basis, your inner philosophies, your views about people and life, your love for children and the wise of age, and your deepest concern for social wellbeing, the community and humanity. Your unwavering passion for continuous learning was so evident and every time you encountered a good book, you picked a copy for me, or better still recommended it. And the adventure spirit in you would gradually sprout and take its center stage. My reckoning from childhood about you was correct with pinpoint precision – that you were different and we naturally spoke the same language!
I would later learn that you were my official baby-sitter and you loved me so much as a toddler. Though I have no memory of that, I can’t take it for granted. You were never paid for that and no one should say that it was your obligation to do it. You did the job out of love, otherwise how then did it occur that the rest of my siblings didn’t find it sumptuous to assume the responsibility? And I would later find it big fun to babysit your boys, and they are growing up to become my little siblings I never had!
But in the end, your resilience and unwavering get-up-and-go has always been something of a wunderkind for me. Your bravado, audacity, tenacity, forward-looking, bigheartedness and vigor, but also playfulness, have always revitalized my own roho. What everyone thinks is inexplicable or simply impossible, you laugh it off and move on with an unshaken spirit. Your mettle is overall unmatched. When the Somali crooks at Namanga boarder post had played monkey tricks on the last pennies you were left with for that gruesome adventure, you sobered up and we made them cough our quid and carried on with Kele-Kele as though nothing had happened!
I could go on and on, but I simply want you to know that the way you inspired and enthused me as a kid is the same way you still do today. You are forever my icon of refinement!
Love you eternally,