DIASPOMAN : How dented tins helped Béa economize better

It’s a pity that this terrible swine flu has been detected in one of our neighboring countries. The message to our people is that they should be very careful in order to avoid catching this dreaded disease.

It’s a pity that this terrible swine flu has been detected in one of our neighboring countries. The message to our people is that they should be very careful in order to avoid catching this dreaded disease.

I remember several years ago, there was this disease called Cholera which had spread across the borders. Radio messages were ringing from all corners.

Newspaper articles were touching on this very subject. The main message was that people would have to avoid handshakes.

In fact, if possible, people would have to invest in hand gloves. So, during that time, Aggrey and I used to walk around Kigali with so much confidence.

We would be seen walking majestically due to the fact that we were loaded with hand gloves. We had been obliged to put on hand gloves in order to cope with the compulsory Rwandan handshake. 

But as days passed by, our hitherto fearful fingers began to regain confidence. Aggrey and I tried to convince ourselves that whenever you go to Rome, you do what other Romans do.

That is why we slowly abandoned the use of hand gloves as they also proved to be chewing into our meagre budgets.

So we started to practice “live” handshakes and discarded those so called hand protectors. Within a short time, Aggrey and I had gotten used to serious handshakes.

We shook hands with the shopkeeper whenever we entered to buy a loaf of bread. We shook his hands again when we left the shop.That was the order of the day.  

To-date the habit of handshaking has lingered on. Although these days, you will easily spot the young generation using Rasta-like gestures. The Rastas use clenched fists as a sign of friendship and solidarity. With clenched fists, there is no chance of being contaminated by the dreaded disease.

However, there appears to be another habit that some people have failed to do away with – sharing local booze. This they do with the use of the same straw or the same glass.  

With pleas from the Ministry of Health officials, the men in yellow have joined in the race.

They have been seen out there in the suburbs combating this threat. They know where to search. These are places where you would find elderly men sitting in large groups passing around a shiny calabash full of local brew.

You would find an elderly man sucking up the potent drink as the dirty old straw dangled freely into the calabash. With his eyes closed in sheer pleasure, the old man would be taking in several litres before passing it over to the next person.

And in the process no one would rule out possibilities of passing around any funny disease.  

When I discovered that the men in yellow were indeed hunting for such watering holes, my heart skipped a beat. This is because I suddenly remembered how Aggrey and I had survived cholera attacks over a decade ago.

We survived this terrible disease by the grace of God. For us, we never shared a calabash of local brew by using the same straw.

No way! For us, we used to share a tough liquor which hailed from the slopes of snow capped Mountain Rwenzori. This serious liquor is popularly referred to as UG. Its other name is Waragi.  

So when Aggrey and I thought of wetting our throats, we would go visit our immediate neighbour at the Kiyovu of the poor.

If your memory serves you well, you will recall that our neighbour was always referred to as Mr. Waraje.

He had earned this name due to the fact that whenever he guzzled enough UG, he would start singing praises for that serious drink. He would start singing; “UG Waraje, UG Waraje…” 

Anyways, whenever Aggrey and I got into the spirit of tasting some of that UG, we would go cajole Mr. Waraje who would then take us to Béa’s joint. Here we would join another gang of UG consumers.

As I mentioned before, we never used a straw and a calabash. Instead we used a funny looking tin which had always seen better days. Usually, the tin would be an ex-blue band metallic tin.

Since the poor section of Kiyovu could not afford real glasses, the barmaids would head for the nearest dustbins and proceed to pick a nice selection of old used tins.

Then the barmaids would clean them up and proceed to put the tins into the desired shapes.

That is why Béa would pick up a stone and start hammering the tins. She would hammer them until the tins developed deep dents.

When we asked Béa as to why she served us the liquor in spoilt and dented tins, she told us that those dents were meant to serve as a cup handle. She argued that those dents were supposed to provide space for our fingers to clutch tightly lest the tin would drop down.

But after secret investigations by Aggrey, we received the truth. Apparently, Béa banged those tins so that whenever she measured our dose of UG, the tin would appear to be full up whereas in the actual sense the tin would be holding half of our usual dose. Talk about economizing!