I hear it’s wrong, unprofessional even, to stereotype people however widespread the stereotype may be. So in an attempt to look professional, I am going to have to start by saying that not all Indians are stingy, exploitative, ungracious bastards. Out there, somewhere, there may be a kind Indian who sees the human being behind an employee. But because I am yet to meet that Indian, I’ll write about the Indians I’ve had the misfortune of referring to as clients.
Indians lease many acres of land and go to their lawyer—your boss—to help with the transaction. Because it involves paying off squatters, which may necessitate going all the way to Luwero to see what’s on ground, your boss realizes he’s too busy for that shit (after all he’s already been paid anyway) so he summons you, the junior lawyer, and asks you about your Saturday schedule and how you feel about taking a vacation from the city noise.
Enchanted, you write off your weekend plot and obliviously respond affirmatively because you think you know what such “vacations” mean. At this point business cards are exchanged and the Indians say their goodbyes promising to call you.
Friday evening, you’ll receive a call and you know you’re speaking to an Indian when the stranger on the other end of the line squeaks “Hullo my friend…” like you’ve known each other for the last 15 years. Because you’re a modest person, you reciprocate the pleasantry,
“Hello my friend, I’ve been expecting your call. So what’s the program tomorrow?”
“Now, we’re going to be a bit early, where do you stay?” He asks
“I stay in Kamwokya, Mawanda road.” You reply.
“Perfect, we’re actually going to pass by that road, can we pick you at 5 am? You know we need to be there early, we have a busy schedule tomorrow. You think you can do that?
“No problem.” You reply enthusiastically
“Thank you my friend, see you at City Oil at 5.”
For the first time since you left school, you set an alarm to wake up at 4 am on a Saturday morning so you can prepare draft agreements for your “friends” and be at City Oil by 5 am where you find a Toyota double cabin with a familiar Indian face behind the wheel and another Indian lady in the front seat. The couple humbly greets you as you get into the back seat of the car where you spend the next two hours of the journey listening to people who converse as if they’re quarreling.
When you finally get to your destination; which turns out to be a much bigger establishment than you imagined, a factory that employs over 50 workers. You’re led first to what appears like a master’s quarters where you get your first reality check at the breakfast table.
The mean and boorish character of your friends is revealed by the tea girl who has worked for her masters long enough to know who is entitled to what. First the Indian lady is kind enough to ask if you would like a cup of coffee, which offer you accept, not because you didn’t have breakfast before you left home, but because you’ve caught a whiff of the scrambled eggs coming from the kitchen across.
“Sarah, prepare an extra cup for the lawyer” an order is made, and 10 minutes later, breakfast is served. However, you notice something that doesn’t seem right; while there’re three cups on the table, only two plates of scrambled eggs are served. You look around but it becomes apparent that the people you’re sharing the table with don’t seem to share your concern.
“Maybe one of them is a vegetarian?” you wonder. “But no one asked if I eat eggs, I hope I am not the vegetarian”
Shortly, your little puzzle is solved when the rightful owners, those who are entitled, claim the plates and unabashedly gorge on the eggs as you nestle your cup in your hands, repeatedly sipping at the coffee like its warmth and romanticized aroma were the reason you asked for it.
“Probably there was too much paper, or garlic” you attempt to rationalize “the maid, the man and his wife, all three of them must have had one look at me and concluded I am allergic to whatever is in those eggs and there was no point asking if I wasn’t.” You shrug it off.
After breakfast, you do your job that has been revised to include moving on foot into the bushes where you have to meet squatters who are apparently too old, sick, or both to walk. Meanwhile, you not only have to read and translate for the old people before witnessing their signatures on the agreement, but you also have to negotiate on behalf of your clients, making sure they pay the least compensation possible to the old helpless widows about to be evicted along with their dead husband and children from land they’ve lived for the last 30 years. This, you do so well and you believe because you’ve saved your clients a couple of millions, this gratitude they’re expressing with repeated “Webalenyo sebo” will be translated into a more meaningful language.
By 3 pm, all is done and you’re on your way back to Kampala. Along the way, they ask if they can drop you off at your home (which happens to be located along the way but before the nearest Javaz). However, because you overheard the words “lunch” and “Javaz” used close to each other somewhere in their Hindi conversation, you change your program and say you’re going to town, which means they’d have to drive past their intended destination and back if the plan is to get rid of you before they eat. You underestimate them, again!
Reaching City Oil, the car stops. “Hey, so we’re stopping here, we have another meeting here at Javaz in the next few”
“Hmm…Okay. Is it related to the same land matters, do you want me to join you?” You pretend you don’t know what’s going on.
“Oh, no. This is a totally different matter. Thanks a lot for everything” The man replies and stares back into the expanse.
“Webale nyo sebo.” The wife encores, turning behind to offer an empty handshake.
“Kale nyabo” you chuckle sheepishly as you try to buy time, hoping against hope that this ungrateful couple will find their senses.
“O w k a y, I g u e s s I’ l l h a v e t o g r a b a b o d a t o t o w n.” You drag your feet out of the car.
“Alright my friend, see you next week”
But after thinking about it for a moment, you say fuck this shit as you sit back into the car.
“Hey look here, I don’t know about you guys but this has been an exhaustive journey and I am quite hungry.” You allude as you cock your head towards Javaz whimsically. “Don’t worry, I don’t intend to interrupt your meeting, I’ll have mine to go”
“No, you look here my friend, that’s the thing with you Ugandans, you…”
“Oh oh, this is another client calling, can this wait? Change of plan, I’ll have the lunch next time, see you next week”
Less than 5 minutes later, you receive a call from your boss quizzing you about extorting money from his client.