Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: A Ride With Nalulungi


Uganda is blessed with very expressive, very hilarious people and taxis tend to have their fair share of these individuals. Just when you think you have seen it all, you meet the Nalulungis of this world and they blow your mind.

Today, as I settle in my favourtite seat at the extreme back of the taxi, I notice a woman who exudes an air of contempt for all of us ugly earthlings.  She has a permanent sour look on her face and looks daggers at whoever fails to recognize her majestic beauty.

As the taxi begins to fill up, she orders all those seated near windows to open them because the air inside is foul. She says this with her nose so turned up, it would touch the sky if she tried a little harder. I find this strange since a Kampala taxi is not exactly Air Force One.

Next, she tells the driver to turn down the noise, mind you noise not music. Which he does promptly, and everyone is now dead quiet but keeps stealing glances at Nalulungi. Taking this as a cue to enjoy the attention she has probably always craved, she pulls out her Japanese hand fan and begins to fan her face furiously and then comments on the weather. We all ignore her because most people have figured what trouble is when they see it.

A few minutes later, Nalu ,is bored by her fan and now pulls out a mirror and a small multicolored kit and begins to dab powder everywhere on an already over caked face. Now, let me describe to you Nalu’s face. She sure was a beauty during the time when I think Noah was gathering those trees to build the ark but not anymore. A combination of time, shrewish behavior, Ambi, snowfire, Jaribu, Mekako and other steroids have since erased that fact. What remains now is a shell of what was.

She now spots galleys and traces which collect all the multicolored powder making her look like a badly dyed batik, but in her mind, she still feels  beautiful enough to harass conductors, talk down on fellow passengers and generally be a diva whenever there is audience.

Well, we all do not know this until the conductor says, “ Mukadde mpa ku sente zo,” (old woman give me your money). Nalu, blows up tells the conductor off.  How can he call her an old woman did she go to school with his grandmother? “You conductors, why are you so stupid?” she rants. “How can you call me old?” She rages.   This goes on and on and on in typical Ugandan style. Thankfully the entire taxi ignores the fracas probably bored by the old diva or just scared of her sharp tongue and at least in our heads our peace and life go on and on.

Hey, I am a Ugandan woman who spends a minimum of four hours daily travelling in taxis. Like you, I used to dread the taxi rides until I realized that it is a source of a variety of free entertainment and an interesting study of human nature.