|the invisible people (standard:Editorials, 2095 words)|
|Author: DAVID TUMUSIIME||Added: Apr 22 2004||Views/Reads: 2208/1169||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|personal reactions to beggars on kampala's streets. are beggars all over the world the same?|
THE INVISIBLE PEOPLE David Tumusiime The morning traffic round Clock Tower, the deadly whizzing of taxis on any road between seven and nine in the evening, the prostitutes who line William and Luwum Streets after 10 pm are a part of Kampala that one wishes were not part of the life but are. They are the price we pay for living in a city and once you are accustomed to their presence, it soon feels like they are not even there. Only an unpleasant jolt will rudely remind you they have not gone away. Yet in all the years of living in Kampala, there is one feature time has failed to immure me from: the beggars on our streets. I'm sure I'm not the only one disturbed because I have I have heard many persons speak more than once of “this nuisance.” In fact I have a notion that every Kampala resident, like I, is haunted by certain beggars on our many streets who represent to each person the whole tribe of these homeless people who sleep on the streets. Obbo Sam Jude recently discovered his own spectre that represents for him all this tribe. He had observed, with much disgust in his voice, that K.C.C. (Kampala City Council) was again not doing it job worse than usual. He had noticed, he said, an increase in the number of beggars on the street. Their numbers were most alarming on Entebbe Road just before Shoprite. They were, he supposed, either Karimojong or Sudanic or some tribe from up there. Anyway, it was just not safe anymore to walk down Entebbe Road since their arrival. He was wrong. They have been there for several years. He only noticed them because the building construction going on has forced them to move further down the roadside from where they had been before. But it is impossible to simply label them beggars. Sure, there are barely clothed babies and children with runny noses and distended stomachs who sometimes hold out knobbly hands to receive coins or other offerings. The tentlike structures they inhabit down in Goodshed near Goodshed Lorry Park made of the skimpiest looking black or dirty white polythene seem hardly like they can keep out the cold or rain. The stench around the tents they live in from black wastewater with solid floating globules is stomach churning. But still I would hardly call them beggars. If there are a people that can be called invisible, they are it. Their whole demeanour is calculated to call the least attention to themselves. The adults for one do not beg. They are engaged in making small household necessities with a real art for sale like wire rattraps, the famous three legged stools or local herbal medicines for common diseases. I have seen them with my own eyes gang up and force a petty thief who had snatched a purse from a lady just in front of them to return the purse to the disbelieving young woman. The women wear the most beautifully patterned kangas I'm told actually tell the life story of the wearer with an enviable naturalness. But I can understand a bit my friend's fear of them. In spite of their supposed low status, they do not look like beggars at all. It maybe because of the way they hold themselves. They stand their shoulders spread out, back straight, and if you look at them look back at you with a question instead of a plea and in spite of their situation radiate an unquestionable dignity and an aloof pride you can only possess if you are sure who you are. I understand because there is a beggar on the furthest extreme of Kampala Road just before it becomes Jinja Road who sits near Petro fuel station I'm afraid of. There's no rational reason why I should be afraid of him. He is the beggar and I'm the self-sustaining citizen after all. Yet I'm. He sits on the hard cement pavement bare-chested, his legs folded under him sometimes like a Swami, his abnormally large genitals hanging out of his worn brown trouser, his held out hand accompanied by his plaintive appeal you give him something, anything. He is a man in nearly all senses of that word and has no physical deformities as far as I have been able to see. His body is what is can be called wiry or slender, he has high cheekbones, matted dusty brown hair and the surprising Van Dyke beard on his pointed chin gives his not quite emaciated bony face a mocking aristocratic air. Is he the Click here to read the rest of this story (128 more lines)
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