Written by MARTHA LEAH NANGALAMA
I found a photo of my siblings (SIMBLINGS) of when they were young. I have many photos of our family from decades ago. When I was looking at this photo, I was struck with a FACT. I have not written to Mayi Margaret or called her since I came to Canada in 1987.
Many Ugandans have been sending me messages today “Happy Woman Day”. I have been asking them all if they called their mom today? Their other moms who raised them. Their aunties. Their grandmas. None of them has told me that they called their mother. Imagine that. Someone gives you life and you buy an iPhone for your GF or Slay Queen but your mother doesn’t even have a phone on which you can call her. Did you even send your mother money today to buy half a kilo of meat? Our parents are getting elderly and need MMM (Milk, Meat, Medicine). I hope after you read this message, you will do the needful. Thank you in advance.
Now, one day, I was very sick. Like, seriously sick. Very berry. I went days without eating. Mayi Margaret carried me on her back and took me to Bududa Hospital and the doctors could not diagnose what was wrong with me. This time I didn’t even have malaria (I used to get boots of malaria monthly). She was livid. She called them complete idiots. “You morons of stupidity. My daughter is dying and you don’t have a clue of what is wrong with her? Did you even get a medical degree from Makerere or Nasero Rd University? I will write to the President about your incompetency”. By the way, it was Gen. Idi Amin who was the president at that time. Like mother even knew Amin’s address.
The next day, she again carries me on her back to Bududa Central… Mukona, where the buses, taxis, matatu and bodas take people to either Mbale or Bulucheke. There was no hospital in Bulucheke at that time. The next hospital was Bubulo Hospital. We get into Bubulo Hospital and … by the way, that time, medical care was free, one only had to take the sick to any of the nearest hospital. We stayed in that hospital all day while the hospital ran tests. The only issue, actually, was I was not eating. I was becoming emanciated day by day and risked of dying from Marasmus or Kwashiorkor or one of them diseases that afflict kids who lack nutrients. Nothing comes back that I am sick with anything. You should have been there to see how she trashed those doctors. Our mother has a tough tongue. But, it is not like she had to remain silent while her daughter was dying.
The following day, the elders had a meeting. “Kha Leah khaffe khali khufa” (our little Leah is dying). This is when it was decided that I had been bewitched. You people have no idea of the malogo (witchcraft) which is rampant in Bududa. In fact, the medical system cannot even detect what you are suffering from. We just bury every dead and attack the next person rumoured to be a witch. So, it was decided that the elders would talk to all the witches on our village to find out who had bewitched their beloved child and pay the witch a black goat, a black hen, a black duck and money. They said they would even slaughter a bull and give all the matumbo to the witch just so their daughter could live.
Mother wanted nothing to do with that rubbish. She abused them all saying “you are very stupid. It is because the doctors are idiots”. AND some of you wonder why Leah abuses people. I was trained from a tender age.
The next day, she carries me on her back to this traditional doctor in Busai. When we got there, the gentleman told her “This child has been bewitched. I am going to heal her. Bamupa tsichupa. Khefuna khayembe khanje imukhale imurusimo tsikyupa”. The first thing that went through my head “Oh dear Jesus, here we go again. She is gonna abuse this man big time”. Except, she kept quiet and told him “please go ahead and do what you must do”. The previous night, she had put me in her bed and kept watch over me because I was gonna certainly die.
So, our doctor takes a razor blade. Cuts 3 stripes on my left rib cage area. Does the same thing on my right rib area. Then has some kind of grass in a bowl, puts some liquid in it, then puts on each area he had cut and speaks what sounded like God speaking (speaking in tongues). Lo and behold!!! Broken pieces of glass were coming out of my body like you even have any clue. He kept doing this. Broken glass pieces kept coming out. Finally, he says “my work is done”.
You do not even know the confusion that ensured. My mother was looking at that man like she was gonna tear his head off. She started to ask him questions in a very high pitch. Nothing made sense to her at all, and not even to me either. However, I felt a hunger. I suddenly asked for water. They gave me water. I drunk it and was grateful. Then I said something “Mayi, inzala yaminyile. Utsya khutekha bufukye? Mayi, lwalelo, inza khulya buli shino shosi shesi utsa khukhuma. Mayi, I am starving. I need food”.
We live the guy’s shack and I am walking. On my two own proper feet. I was even nearly skipping and kicking my heals. I was singing. I love singing. My mother was looking at me funny as if to say “that old wizard likely gave this kid some drug”. When we got home to our village, Bukirimwa, I started with mangoes. I love mangoes more than monkeys love bananas. Then at supper time, I could not stop eating. In fact, I was keeping everything down. It was a phenomenal day.
I used to eat a lot of raw cassava, raw sweet potatoes, raw everything. I had tape worms. There was no way, at that time, that a village hospital could test for worms. They likely did have a way but I was not eating so I was not pooping and besides, I have a solid record of always getting malaria and every time I was sick, people only used to test for malaria.
Call your mother. You have no idea what that woman went through to raise you.