You are in the house strumming the lyres of your guitar. The chords reverberate all through.
In the kitchen, she is cutting onions on a steak chopping board. They are for samosas. Samosas are her new hustle. She now makes them for a living and sells to schools. They are tasty samosas, three of them are on a plate where you’re strumming guitar from. She is whistling along to your strumming, a careful whistle that dodges the room of your three-year-old child who is still asleep and a 16-year-old girl in her final school years.
It’s an a cappella in the house. And you’re it’s lead sonnet. You come down into the kitchen, hold her waist and smile. It’s a beautiful family – and a beautiful day. But you’re also eyeing the samosas
“Babe, can I eat one more?” you ask.
“No” she replies, with the eye roll of whole clock hour.
“But you can buy, in which case, you can eat”
A proper catch 22. You can’t buy them though. You have been months out of a job. A couple of gigs here and there to keep afloat and pay the rents have been keeping you busy. This morning, you have to go teach two children at a large mansion how to play guitar like you. They are bright boys, bright but very jumpy and that’s just not the character of good learners of music. But what’s a hustle without a few disturbances; just like people who eat other people’s samosas in the morning.
I didn’t meet the music man – I’d have loved to. He would have to come with his guitar to the meeting and play me all the good songs I like hearing. But instead we had a long phone call on a Saturday morning. It was occasionally interrupted with network problems and we had to ask; “Can you hear me” many times and respond, “now I can” – even more times. He sounded confident and unbuoyed but his story was a whirlwind.
Music man had planned to ‘Kukyala’ at his girlfriend’s home. ‘Kukyala’ is a Luganda word for ‘visiting’. But in Buganda, it is a rite of passage on the marriage path. It is the day you go to the girl’s parents and tell them they did a good job raising their daughter and that you’d like to take it over from there. It can be a very intimidating thing because they will ask you questions like;
“Who are you?”
“David Rujojo” you will reply.
You will waft on about Bushenyi where you hail from but one of the in-laws will already have entered your name on Facebook and seen pictures of you holding guitars and posting things like; “What do you do when the weather is cold; Dismantle your guitar, clean it and put it back again”.
They will secretly judge you but be proud that their daughter will go to a man who cleans guitars with his free time.
One of the sisters will interrupt your interrogation with a gourd of raw milk from one of the cows you brought and you will be glad that they did because the question on what your plans are for the future was on the waiting list, sitting pretty waiting for the one on ‘what you do for a living?’ to come out of the room.
Music man had planned his kukyala before the lockdown happened. He looked at the list of things to take to his in-laws home and ticked them off religiously; soap – tick, crates of soda – tick, beers – just enough to keep them at the edge, sugar – plenty of that. The plan was to close four gigs he’d been commissioned and use the money for the kukyala. They talked about it with his incoming bride every morning over a plate of unpaid for samosas.
“Do you think the parents will like it if I come in jeans” he’d ask
“If you don’t want to take me then come in jeans” she’d reply.
They had two children to look after. The eldest, a 16-year-old girl was for his bride and her former fiancé [Do they call these exes too?] and a three-year-old that had arrived at the start of their dating.
The plans had one problem though; when the lockdown was announced, all the gigs that were bringing in the money ground to a halt. A studio building project was stopped and some weddings where he had been booked to play at were cancelled. Music man – David – struggled with his finances, looking for money to keep food on the table – atleast pay for samosas – and also keep up to good terms with his landlord.
The kukyala was cancelled.
I ask him how hard that decision was.
“Man,” he hesitates.
“I don’t know if you have ever cancelled a marriage ceremony”
I remain quiet.
“But it’s a hard decision”. He concludes.
A lot of convincing went in to the process and the lockdown didn’t make it any easier.
I ask him whether he will do it now that the lockdown is slowly being lifted.
“Even if I get one good paying gig” he says emphatically “I will marry this sweet girl”
Love, I tell you, is a beautiful thing.
Music man has to go and teach guitar. He will go to the lush home with a big compound and meet his two students already running around. He will play for them John Mayer songs and long for the day to end so he can go home and hug his love and eat samosas off of her hand.
I ask him what lesson he’s learnt during the crisis;
“Always be available to solve a problem. Always save. And always have a farm”
Lastly, I ask him what his lover’s name is;
“Oh, Julie” “Sweet Julie”
Dear Julie, I hope your donut and samosa business grows tenfold and I hope to hear Music man play soon.
We’re telling stories of the effect the pandemic has had on people individually. If you have a story, drop an email to [email protected]