The Maid’s Son: Hated at first sight
By JJ Mponye:
If you can love someone at first sight, then you surely can also afford to hate another at first sight. After all, both situations require the same approach: a very shallow and hasty decision making process. A process that disregards the need to first get to know and experience someone before making an informed decision about them.
I made up my mind to hate Namakula from the moment Tricia announced that she was our new maid. Perhaps hate is such a big word. But I can swear that I did not like the idea of her being our maid. Nama, as Tricia came to call her, was basically unappealing. I did not like her, was not planning to and neither was I feeling indifferent. My feelings towards her were of course deeply connected to Monica. I felt that Nama had unfairly taken Monica's job. A disciplined, independent minded, pregnant and desperate young girl was hurriedly sacked – for no apparent reason – and replaced with this woman whose initial strong points were preparing traditional Ganda dishes and addressing me while kneeling down. Not that I appreciate the kneeling bit at all. I find it extremely pretentious.
Tricia and I refer to kneeling as a public display of respect. I remember coining this phrase after noticing that Tricia was always so quick to kneel down before me when at social functions attended by her relatives. She, however, has never knelt down before me in the privacy of our home. Not that I demand she does! She instead shouts at me like a minor whenever she is mad about something. I remember we were at a traditional wedding ceremony about two years ago when Tricia came to ask me if she could use my phone to make a call. She winked and smiled at me while kneeling down gently. We had had a small marital fight that morning primarily because she had refused to own up to her mistake and to make a simple apology. I remember quietly snapping at her as she knelt down, “Why don't you quit with the public display of respect and tell me what you want like you do at home!” I was simply not in the mood for hollow displays.
Well, Nama kneels whenever she is talking to me. She kneels when she greets me. She kneels when she serves me food. And she even kneels when she is saying, “yes”! I once tried to protest but she insisted that it is her culture; she loves it and respects it. Tricia supported her saying, “let the woman kneel if she wants. What do you lose when she kneels before you? I thought you men even enjoy those things. That is why our forefathers came up with the whole concept.” But deep inside I think this kneeling bit, at home, defines who the real woman of the house is.
When you hate someone it becomes so easy to notice all their mistakes. Even the very little natural faults you would have ignored, had that person been likable, become intolerable. The things that just should not even matter become issues.
I hate the fact that Nama is always dressed in a gomesi (Kiganda women's traditional dress). But Tricia was so thrilled with the whole set up of a clumsily dressed thirty-something woman strutting lazily all over the house. “Don't you see that she looks mature, decent and respectable? She is not like these young girls who come with intentions of seducing our husbands,” Tricia always says whenever I attempt to complain about the gomesis. Nama has this particular coffee brown gomesi with yellow floral designs that never seems to leave her body. That thing kills my spirit.
Sometimes Nama acts like she is deaf. I think she is partially deaf! You need to shout before she can get what you are saying. I just hate it when she draws closer to hear what you are saying. When she kneels down her gomesi always fans a characteristic disgusting odour of sweat comingled with smoke and over used steamed banana leaves. Nama loves to talk whenever she gets the opportunity. And she has the annoying habit of always wanting to hear you say “mmmh” at every statement she makes.
I have gradually come to recognize some good things about her – like the tasty luwombo groundnut sauce and matooke that she makes – and to have some compassion on her basing on her life history.
But I am still getting used to her calling me 'Uncle', a term that Tricia has now started using!