Taxi Tales: The Mulalu Stage
By David Tumusiime, Uganda:
Everyone calls him Mulalu. No one knows where he came from. No one can chase him from the stage. No one would dare. To chase him would mean to confront him. No one wants to do that.
The taxi drivers try from time to time. But most of their conductors will not bother to jump out of their taxis and try to hail passengers from that stage. Mulalu makes the cost too high for the hope of a lone passenger.
The first conductors who tried to challenge him are still on the road and they tell their stories. Some do not have to tell their stories. Their scars speak for them. Missing fingernails from Mulalu slamming their taxi doors on their hands; barking at them to either pay for the stage or move on to the next one. Mulalu does not play.
So no one has ever actually fought with Mulalu. His face is too much of a memorial of the fights he was in before he appeared at that stage. He does not have front teeth. His snarl is a glimpse into a darkness where blows went, never to return. His nose is out of joint, in profile it looks like a hook. When he faces you, it seems like he is snorting furiously.
He has a healed gash over his right eye that must have been a frightening wound fresh. He is almost always in a threadbare fishnet vest clinging desperately to his trunk. A body builder's trunk. So compact. A conductor, to dissuade others from taking on Mulalu, always points to a dent on the side of his taxi and tells them how Mulalu did that.
He rammed into the side of his taxi, the time that conductor tried to stop at Mulalu's stage to surreptitiously pick up a passenger. He did not see Mulalu charging towards him. It was his driver who saved him by shouting, “Shut the door! Shut the door now! The mad one is coming”.
To this day, the conductor says he is glad he did not question his driver. He believes he would have lost his arm if Mulalu had got to the door first. They got to the door simultaneously. Slammed it shut together. But Mulalu had been charging at such a ferocious speed that when the door slammed shut, he bounced against the taxi so hard the taxi rocked from side to side. Looking at Mulalu, you do not doubt the conductor.