Sequins and Sapphires, Series

Sequins and Sapphires: Boda Boda Frenemies

By Kathryn Kazibwe:

The usual cat calls assail me as I approach the local bodaboda stage. These men are relentless! For more than two months now I've been using this route on my way to work, and ever since that first day they've been calling out to me, with statements varying from hilarious to downright disgusting. Recently they overheard me telling my mom's friend that I'm interning at Mulago Hospital, and instead of the usual 'Sister', I became 'Musawo'. Tact is not a part of these people's lives, I tell you!

I will admit, though, that while for the most part I find their antics bothersome, I would also be uneasy if I passed by this particular stage and none of these men said anything to me. We have created an unconventional relationship; them and me, an unspoken understanding. They greet me, I greet back. They shout out other comments and I ignore them. It is a part of my daily routine that I honestly wouldn't do away with, given the chance.

Thinking about it, I have concluded that the bodaboda men and their unsolicited comments are just a part of the hierarchy life has neatly arranged all men into. On the lower rung is the idler who will grab your arm as you pass by and try to whisper in your ear, managing only to spray you with generous fountains spewing from his (usually not so clean) mouth. Such is the type whose complements count for less than nothing to any self respecting woman.

Top most is the sleek guy, smart and sharp. He'll lightly tap your shoulder and in perfect English and intonation ask if he's met you before. Even as you shake your head as a “no”, he jumps straight to complementing you on your wonderfully done hair, or your pretty smile. But just as randomly, you take what this man says to you seriously, and smile about it all day, maybe even share it with a few friends.

When all is said and done, these men are more similar than they are different. The issue of class just crept in and handed some a raw deal, rendering their attentions an annoyance to be lamented, while the others are deemed complements within which to bask.

Keeping this in mind as I listen to my bodaboda friends' comments, I just tuck all of them, crass or otherwise, in some deep part of me, to be picked apart later in search of good intention.

Today, though, it seems one of them, the most notorious one in the area of lurid remarks, woke up on the wrong side of the wrong bed. As I walk past, he yells Musawo (Doctor) in a less 'romantic' way than he usually does. Of course I ignore him. Then he unleashes a long, long, long hiss from his mouth which must have taken gallons of saliva to pull off, and raises his voice even higher.

Naye musawo lwaki weelaga ate nga n'okunyuma tonyumye? Laba obutumbwe bwona bukulinga obw'embalaasi!”

That is the comment he threw at me in Luganda, which loosely translates to:

“But doctor, why do you show off yet you're not even smart? Look at your calves; they are like those of a horse!”

It is said that if you want an insult to cut deep, all you have to do is say it in your mother tongue. I now know this first hand, the receiving side of the hand! The sound of laughter practically sets the ground shaking as I gallop towards the waiting taxi for refuge. I'm not sure I'll be able to find any goodness in that one!

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2 thoughts on “Sequins and Sapphires: Boda Boda Frenemies”

  1. I believe that hiss is what is called Okusooza. I’m sorry for you that you are subject to such catcalling. I beg to ask that a distinction between boys and men be made. Real men do not participate in such crass behavior and to stereotype all men as such, being only divided by class is wrong.

    Nevertheless, you experience something less than 1% of men would ever experience from women. Public and verbal adulation or appreciation. Whilst there maybe a few who like the one you mentioned, abuse instead of affirm, enjoy the appreciation. Some of us have never and possibly will never experience the same 🙂

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