By Mpuga Rukidi, Uganda:
Zakayo is our version of Zachaeus. This is all thanks to the phonetic differences our languages have with European ones. We always want to cut the story short – though we in the process of course prolong a short story sometimes. Zacheus is the man in the Bible that went up a tree, all in a bid to see the messiah for himself. But I want to sound cool. So I shorten 'Zakayo' to 'Zackie'.
The Zacheus I really wish I was is far from the Bible one. When I bought one of the dailies the other day, I was greeted by the picture of a grown chimp – must be the oldest in the country. He is so famous. His list of contacts outdoes mine by a number of times. Zackie was being examined by a team of doctors. Being the kind that reveres medics, I took a closer look – not an effort since the picture was on the front page. I saw all sorts of equipment there. The medics had concern written all over their knowledgeable faces. They were apparently doing a routine medical on him like he was a revered guru. They were checking his heartbeat, sight and all, and must have taken his blood pressure, and done all sorts of tests – RBS, CBC, and other tests with such fancy names.
Old Zackie was all relaxed – a sage having apprentices come around him to get knowledge. Then my mind tried to put together the events at the last visit I had made to a doc – which was about a month ago. I had heard about the Uganda Cancer Institute, and had read about all these chances that people of colour (I wonder why whoever coined the phrase did not just call those people colourful – to cut the long story short) have to catch cancer. I was sure I belonged to that category. I was scared; I wanted to have my prostate checked – having read about how dangerous prostate cancer can be.
The institute sees not more than 30 patients a day, so one has to be there very early in the morning. That day it rained, but I was early enough to be number three on the list. After about 3 hours, the doctor came and was 'shocked to see a young man like you'! He talked quite a lot but it all came to this: in order to be screened, a man had to be either forty five and above, or to have a visible sign of cancer. The message was clear – I had to clock the magical age or have the cancer first in order to be screened. Simple logic! I wondered why the institute had not changed its name to 'morgue' or some such fitting name.
You must have seen the envy on my face when one of our dailies hit me, literally, with the picture of old Zackie who, after making no endeavour to go to hospital, had all the medics at his doorstep. Then it hit me, I wasn't Zackie, so I couldn't get those favours. I would happily be him – if I had a chance.
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