Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: I’m Adding Chicken Feathers To My Handbag Essentials


Today the ride begins well, the taxi is fairly new and clean which couldn’t be said of our conductor who looks older than age and is as tired as hell.  His unshaven face looks so sleep deprived that I am not surprised when two minutes into the ride he starts snoring with his head laid on the metal bar that separates the VIP section from the coach. Whenever he stands out to let passengers in or out of the taxi, he sways with so much sleep like a banana-tree being shaken by the wind.

He continuously snaps at the passengers who wake him because they want to alight. And the pattern soon develops when he asks passengers who have already paid to pay and naturally arguments keep flaring up along the lines of “nkuwade” “tompade”.  The rest of us in the taxi are constantly called for jury duty to decide who is lying and who isn’t. One lady even claims that she has given him a fifty thousand note which can’t be located when the conductor shows us all his money.

We the jury dismiss the lady as a ‘mubi bu bubi’ and the case is closed but she refuses to pay any money when she reaches her destination. I have a strong suspicion that she has been playing this game for some time judging by the calmness with which she walks away when she is left to go but you would never believe it judging from her neat braids and red hot lips!!

Soon the taxi settles down and we all begin to doze in the hot afternoon traffic jam as cars snail into the city. However, our peace is short lived when out of the blue a lanky youth in the middle seat begins to shout gibberish on top of his voice. The taxi is thrown in panic as he goes on cha-cha piri-piri-ha. But after a short while us being Ugandans, we quickly diagnose the boy’s problem as demon possession.

A man seated next to him does not waste time but launches into a counter attack. He lays his hands on the boy and begins to cast out the demon by binding it. The demon ignores the man of God’s feeble attempts and continues us through its medium ha-cha- Piri piri ya. I politely point out that binding is a wrong strategy because it will remain inside the boy and therefore suggested that they chase it away instead.

The ‘pastor’ buys my argument and now tries to command it to leave.  But the demon refuses to go I think because he doesn’t tell it where exactly and I don’t blame it because I  know Kampala can be quite confusing when don’t know your destination.  I begin to suspect this demon is quite smart. By this time our pastor is sweating quite profusely and begins to mutter about lack of faith.

When the boy begins convulsing we decide to leave him at the next medical facility but because of the jam we decide to take him instead to a police station. At the mention of the word police the young man gains some composure but his eyes remain tightly closed. Could it be that the demons know about Kayihura’s men? We leave our man at Lubowa police station. Soon after an elderly woman seated next to me who has been thumbing her rosary tells me that the best medicine for spirit possession is to burn some chicken feathers on a pot shard and make the victim smell the smoke. The smell of the smoke will make the demon state its demands instead of speaking the gibberish cha-cha piri-piri ya.

Of course I realize that if the said items had been available I wouldn’t have a great story from the spirit world for you.  So I have resolved to add some chicken feathers onto my kit of lip gloss, hand lotion and tissues. As live charcoal can’t be carried, I will carry a box of matches so what is missing is a pot shard seeing that Musisi chased away the old women who used to sell them on the street with ‘mumbwa’? Problem is how would I explain the presence of feathers in my bag if they fell out as I rummaged for a business card to give to a client…anyway I can always say that they are samples of chicken I am rearing as a side business. As for a pot shard and matches I hope my good reputation will carry me through since Silver Kyagulanyi assured us that “abakazi abayina empiisa tebaremererwa”.

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.