While I was away some time last week, for a burial of a friend’s Dad, I just took time and kept a diary of a few strange things that rocked my mind. So in short, this is the week that was.
1. Evolution of funerals: Shortly before I travelled to this South Eastern part of Uganda for a burial, I had just watched Michael Jackson’s funeral live on CNN, and of course being the Superstar that he was, the funeral suited him. I wasn’t surprised when a number of musicians took to the floor to sing a few MJ songs in remembrance of the King of Pop.
However, I didn’t know our brothers in Uganda have also reached a certain level of modernity regarding funerals. I was shocked! The last time I remember, a funeral ceremony was just a painful event where people amidst crying, improvised a simple shelter out of banana leaves (Ekidaara) and a few benches from the local church while the local carpenter put together a simple coffin.
Volunteers would then dig a grave, less than 7-feet deep and women would cry as the body in a makeshift casket was being lowered.
Soon men with spades and hoes would pile soil until the coffin is fully covered and more soil on top to make a hill of sorts. As young children, we would remain wondering whether such people would have a chance to resurrect just in case there is life after death.
This has all changed, as soon as I set foot at the old man’s home, huge tents that could seat 1000 people, lined with plastic chairs welcomed me.
You would think they were meant for a wedding of the century. A generator on the side was buzzing and the DJ was connecting huge speakers to a music system.
The whole atmosphere was that of a wedding but alas…it was a funeral. Soon, gospel music was blaring out of the huge speakers at full blast.
The people, who in the past would be required to sing funeral hymns, were seated, being treated to drinks and food.
After the preacher spoke, the DJ would put a music break and speeches were separated by musical interludes. Meanwhile, hired masons were putting final touches on the grave, paving it with tiles and concrete and…what a good job?
When the coffin came out, it wasn’t gold as Michael Jackson’s but it was surely made out of expensive wood and it was littered with expensive wreathes of flowers….Hmmm? That’s when it dawned on me that I was still living in the past.
The after party: While in my mind I thought crying was the best thing to do having lost our distinguished old man, other people had different ideas (especially those from the City).
This was the time to take a break off the city’s hustle and bustle, sit under a tree shed and order a few crates of beer and cartons of Uganda Waragi and drink away. When you get drank, fresh milk, lots of milk and lots of meats were ready remedies of resultant hangovers. Who was I not to join in?
2. On my way back to Kigali, a few strange things happened too. I boarded a bus and the conductor was telling me I was going to pay Rwf 200 instead of the usual 150. I accused him of trying to cheat in broad day light. He explained how it was a new bus service where a Rwf 200 ticket entitled me to a one hour ride on any of these Kigali Bus Service plying Kigali roads.
All this time, other commuters were listening and looking at me as if I was an alien from mars. Next stop driver….or else I would look an ignorant fool…..haha.
3. Volcanoes on fire: News broke that a wild fire had broken out on the Virunga Mountains and efforts to contain it were almost futile.
I started worrying what would have been of our beloved Mountain Gorillas, the amount of revenue the country was about to lose, dozens of tour companies which would close down, park wardens who would run out of jobs and research centres that would close down. Amidst all these, this peasant whose greed for honey made him start the fire explaining the whole ordeal on TV, as to say “I wish you knew I would rather have this forest burnt but take my honey home”….and I was like, ‘this guy deserves to be put on firing squad’. But that would be elsewhere and not Rwanda…firing squads and death sentences are extinct.
4. To cap my week, news broke that a certain official, remembered for making people swallow “Kama Mbiri” had been relieved of his duties…the world is unfair, the same guy had just barked at me after calling him to get some minimal information in the interest of the public…..
YOU THINK MY JOB IS TO ANSWER QUESTIONS FROM THE NEW TIMES THE WHOLE DAY?