Taxi Memoirs: Neera, Neera . . .My Foot!


I always take care to sit in the most comfortable place in a taxi, because a seat can ruin or make your day. But today because I am running late, I take the only available place directly behind the driver on the engine rump also known as “kameme”. I am joined by a young man who gets displaced by a family of five that makes my journey such an unforgettable ordeal.

The family of five consists of a harassed young mother barely out of her teens with two young boys and a set of twins. They have several bundles of luggage and an enormous cock that won’t settle down. It continuously beats its wings sending debris and dust into the whole taxi.

The mother whom we shall call Nalongo sits beside me with the twins who are as flustered as the cock and will not settle down. She tries to hold them down but she would need another set of arms to do it well; so one of the twins keeps falling on me, until I decide to help.

Nalongo beams at me with “oiyine ekisa ino ino” (you are very kind) and so my journey to purgatory begins. When Waiswa falls asleep and starts snoring on my breast, I decide to take my late lunch of yoghurt and samosa, which his two brothers watch so intently that when I chew, they chew, when I swallow they swallow.  The hungry look on their faces gets to me and I hand over the yoghurt and two samosas to them.

The food disappears so quickly it’s as if it never existed. They lick the yoghurt container so clean, I realize these two are a possible cleaning project but I can’t figure how to exploit it; conceding for once that “ I am not poor but it’s my mind which is poor” as Bukedde’s Tegusulwa says.

As we roll out of Kampala I notice that Nalongo’s haggard eyes are closing momentarily just like the rest of us. Her “kiwani” certainly needs to be repaired and her prematurely aging face would do with some lotion.  It makes me so sad to realize that these are things she ceased caring about the moment she had her firstborn.

I am pulled out of my charitable thoughts by the warmth on my lap that turns out to be Waiswa’s urine which streams along my legs and settles in my shoes. I am incensed.  I have not dealt with gaseous methane for some years now. I glare at the sleeping Nalongo and I want to tell her that if she can’t afford “Huggies she should try Pampers” but I leave her to sleep.

As I approach my destination everyone is awake now, the radio is blasting out Mozey and Radio’s “Neera, Neera” and to my horror the entire Nalongo family plus her of course begin swinging to the song. Nalongo even intimates to me that “Ssalongo ayenda akayimba ako ino ino” i.e Ssalongo loves this song very much. And I do not urge because it shows; but why is it that I have to pay for Salongo’s love for “neera” with my lunch, comfort and skirt. In fact I am so angry by the time I leave the taxi; I am only thinking murderous thoughts towards the people who preach the gospel of “Muzale Mwale”. If I became president I would ban the use of such words by any public figure and I would prosecute people who utter such nonsense making all our lives miserable. “Neera, Neera” my foot!

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.