A Ghost and his Client

I did not expect to be a ghost writer. I remember turning down one job, way back in 2009, when it was clear I might end up a ghost. Well, I didn’t turn it down really, but I quoted a price so high that the potential client refused to respond – not even a letter telling me no.

But today, I’m a ghost writer, and I think the blog I haunt is funnier than this one. And what’s the pay? 🙂

These are matters of the heart, and something that you cannot mention in public. But what I can mention is that maybe it’s a matter that will stay long in my heart, for I think I just passed the six-month mark. It happened before, and it went on for two years, but that time it was all one way traffic. This time, by the sixth month, or we are nearly there, it looks like two way traffic 🙂

The only reason I’m even writing in this blog is that my fingers are itching to write and I don’t have anything to write about, so I will fart around on this page for a few minutes and since nothing is coming out of my head, well apart from the garbage above, I better go to sleep!

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A Clash of Color to Change Lives

Before I came to Nepal, I was not aware that I’m a black man. I thought I was an African. Now, I don’t know how I will behave when I go back to Uganda, what my attitude towards the Asians and White people will be.

Well, a few days ago, I walked out of my house to do some shopping in the bazaar – I grew up in a street called Bazaar Street, which I only found out recently that bazaar is a Hindi word, and this is the only town in Uganda that has elected an Asian MP three times into parliament. that is, in post independence Uganda.
But here I was walking out of my home, and the moment I was out, the staring started. I was rather used to it. Until I ran into a group of boys, maybe between eight and twelve, and they started shouting at me ‘habsi’. That’s the Hindi word for Negro.

I didn’t know what to respond. I kept walking. I thought they used habsi in a rather friendly way, most of them anyway. But these boys then started saying ‘habsi’ and ‘kukur’. kukur being the word for dog (or is it kukura? – though I think that’s the one for chicken, these two words always confuse me) but they would add in English ‘dog’ and ‘black man’ and in Nepali ‘kaalo manche’.

I kept walking, and did not acknowledge them. But I was seething inside, vowing to go straight back home and write a letter to my employers asking them to give me my air ticket back home.

Hardly had I left the boys behind than a man on a rooftop tried to talk to me. He kept saying ‘hello’ and ‘where are you going’ and ‘can I talk to you’ in English, but I was too pissed off to talk to him.

I reached the market, hungry and angry, and there is this girl who shouted at me from across the street ‘Namaste’. I turned to see a twelve year old, her hands clasped together in what would be prayer in a Christian society, but which is a greeting here. And she was smiling at me her broadest. She was selling vegetables at her father’s shop. Her father always tries to cheat me, but her mother gives me vegetables at the Nepali rates, and so does this girl. She probably isn’t more than twelve years old. I liked her smile, so I went over and bought vegetables from her.

Her older brother, maybe thirteen, was with her. He was seeing me for the first time, and his curiosity amused me. The children engaged me in a conversation for almost ten minutes, asking me where I came from and what I was doing in their country, and I asked them about their school and why they weren’t in class. Turns out it was a holiday for them.

Before I left the shop I was resolved to postpone writing that letter for at least a few more weeks. But the moment I turned, there were two girls, about seventeen, walking into the shop. The one in front saw me, and you might have thought that she had run into a lion that was about to devour her.

She gave a loud scream and jumped out of the way, then covered her face as if crying – maybe she was crying in fright. Her scream was so loud that people all over the street turned to see what was happening, but soon word passed that the ‘habsi’ had terrified her.

I didn’t stop to find out how it ended, whether this girl was crying. My old anger was returning, and I didn’t know how much longer I could take this kind of living, where I’m called a dog, and where the sight of me terrifies girls more than a tiger would have terrified them. I just don’t know if I’m able to cope with it much longer.

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My Expensive Hair Cut

Last Friday, I picked up a scissor and shaved my head. After two months of letting the hair grow wild, until it looked like a terraced hillside, for it curled and formed rows on my head like tracks of a strange rodent. I feared to go to the barbers, or rather, I was fed up with visiting those barber shops.

I did try to go and get a proper shave on Tuesday, but that’s the day the barbers go on holiday. Or is it their superstition that they are not allowed to cut hair on a Tuesday? I know in some places, shops close on Mondays because it is bad luck to buy or try on a new cloth on a Monday, therefore the shopkeepers, foreseeing bad business, take a day off on that day. I forget which day is not good for travelling – Tuesday? Or visiting, or showing up at work for the first time. But Tuesdays you’ll never find a barber shop open. So last Tuesday when I found it locked, I lost whatever courage I had to get a proper shave.

And it takes a lot of courage for me, for the moment I sit on the barber’s stool, a crowd gathers, curious to see my hair. The barber will take his time, studying the hair, because this is like nothing he has ever seen before. And the crowd will touch my hair, a million fingers fondling my head to feel the texture of the hair. On more than two occasions, I have seen people pick up and take them home as souvenirs. Hopefully, they only use them for souvenirs and not other evil purpose, like witchcraft, or worshipping their gods, or some such superstition.

Well, by Friday, I was fed up of the way my hair looked. Not that these people care – they think it’s very cute hair. The girls especially love the way it curls, and the way the cornrows form themselves. Some boys asked me how much it costs me to make my hair like that, and for a minute I was tempted to make money out of them. Yet it amused me, that I leave my hair uncombed, and poorly kept, and uncut, for two whole months, and these people think it’s a fashion!

But the hair really bothered me, had started to itch, and while taking showers it consumed a lot of soap.

So I picked a pair of scissors and cut it off myself. A tedious task. I was sort of pleased with my work. No one mentioned anything to me. They wouldn’t tell the difference between badly cut hair, uncombed hair and poorly kept hair. To them, whatever is on my head is a very unique hairstyle that must have cost me a pretty good sum of money.

But then we come to this volunteer conference, and a fellow Ugandan asks me, ‘You man, did you use a knife to cut off your hair?’

That’s how bad it looks. I smiled and whispered to him to hush it, ‘You are the only one who knows that my haircut is awful. No one else does, so don’t tell them anything!’ He roared with laughter, but still kept mum.
Never in my life had I thought i would ever shave myself. Of course I shave in certain private areas :-)) but not the head. And not with a pair of scissors. My friends could not believe when I insisted I used scissors.
Maybe next time I will buy a shaving machine, for they say it cuts smooth and really nicely, so my head won’t look like I shaved it with a knife.

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