Short Stories, Tale Africa

Is it worth it?

By Sarah Nsiime:

It is a Thursday afternoon. I am walking up the road from home. I meet a group of young men standing by the side of the road. Two of them are engaged in a heated argument. One guy claims that the other guy owes him money, while the other guy vehemently denies the allegation. I walk past them.

Looking back after a while, the guy who allegedly owes money is walking up the road towards me, cursing and swearing.

“I can kill you, you know,” he threatens in Runyankole, one of our local languages. To which the first guy, following behind, retorts “Who are you daring to kill?” “You think you can kill me?” “Where will you hide in this city after killing me?”

The argument gets more intense as they walk past me. Ahead of me now, they grab each other in the middle of the road, oblivious to a car approaching them from the other direction and a fight ensues. The driver of the car brakes and stops the car within inches of knocking them down. After honking persistently at them, they inch their way towards the side of the road, arms still locked around each other. Another guy who happens to be walking up the road as well intervenes and is able to separate them.

“What is the matter?” he asks obviously concerned.

“This man owes me Shs.500/- and he has refused to pay me back,” replies the first guy.

“I do not owe you any money,” retorts the second guy whose shirt has almost been stripped off.

 I continue my journey wondering whether these two will successfully resolve their conflict with the help of their self appointed arbitrator, but also shocked by what I've just witnessed.

What could be the problem? Is it the harsh economic times? Or is it the lack of respect for human life? How can someone fight for five hundred Uganda shillings (one fifth of a dollar)? Is that worth fighting over? Even to the point of threatening to kill? Almost getting run over by a car?

I really cannot figure this out. One thing I know for sure is that after watching this free drama, I am left with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

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7 thoughts on “Is it worth it?”

  1. Bones may not be worthless as one may want to think, and in the same contex, so is 500 Ugx. But the underlying message is that one should fight for what is his/hers, value not withstanding.

  2. “I can kill you, you know,” he threatens in Runyankole, one of our local languages. – Reading this has put questions in my mind – doesn’t the writer do more of telling than showing when she identifies the language, complete with a ‘local’ tag without actually using it at all? What if she had actually written the “I kill you …” in the language in which it was said, wouldn’t that make it unnecessary to tell us that this person is speaking this language and the baggage of the language being local? – And we could figure the meaning through the context, so the piece does not look like a translation, of course translations do not read ‘original’, do they?

    1. Considering that this forum is international in makeup and not everyone would trace the dialect or the meaning…besides i hear alot of people say, ” a chinese proverb says blah blah blah” and proceed to share the proverb in English…

      1. Interesting. Actually this is where you get 'caught between a rock and a hard place'. Because when you relay the story as it is in the original language, the readers enjoy richness of the meaning of the story but the readership is limited to only those who understand the language. On the other hand when you loosely translate the story into English you get the benefit of a wider readership but lose out on the original meaning.

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