Sunday, March 2, 2008

The African Diaries - The Land of the Watermelon Smugglers Continued

The flight to Entebbe was uneventful, though the landing felt like we were riding a giant pogo stick. After hopping about on the runway for a bit, the old kangaroo imitator of a captain navigated us to the terminal. Immigration took hardly any time and we pushed off to the luggage conveyor. There I met my first Ugandan gujjubhai.

A spry old gentleman, sixtyish, but dressed like a teenager with low cut jeans, air nikes, everything. "You are India?" "Yes", I admitted, "I am India". "What you are doing in Uganda?". I love the directness of gujjubhais, even though it is a little disconcerting. I have been asked, among other things, the size of my undies ("you are wearing large, medium or small?"), whether I am "doing planning?" (using contraceptives), my income ("how much money you are making per month?") and many other things usually reserved for my spouse, my doctor or my accountant. This, amongst gujjubhais, is conversation, not confrontation. You are not expected to give answers (polite smiles and nods are perfectly acceptable) but if you do respond verbally, get ready for free advice.

By the time my luggage arrived, I learnt that my friend, Jitubhai Patel, was a major businessman in Kampala, that the hotel I was planning to check into was yujelayss, that I got a raw deal from Ethiopian Airlines, and that I would definitely contract malaria in Africa.

Thanking him for his valuable insights, we shuffled out of the airport and looked around for a friend of Tom's who was to have picked us up. Jitubhai, who was hanging around too, remarked that the flight was "before time", so we settled down and decided to watch the world go by.

The people are smartly dressed, I can tell you that! Regardless of their station in life, everyone seemed to be dressed for a party. The ladies were wearing off-shoulder dresses, halter necks, cleavage revealing tops, the kind of clothes you would find Nicole Kidman wearing on Oscar night. And they were all built like Serena Williams. I don't want to say they were big butted but if there is an international watermelon smuggling gang causing grave concern among policemen around the world, it is definitely headquartered in Uganda. Which is why I named it


Tomorrow, we will go around the streets of Kampala and find out what else they smuggle. For now, it is good bye from Uncle Naren, who inadvertently had a drop or two over the alloted quota last night at a party and has to make up for it by cooking lunch.


Drenched said...

Watermelon smugglers? Hahahahaha. This is the most hilarious metaphor that I've read in ages!
And gujjubhais sound a lot like pesky aunties who keep on catching you off-guard by asking personal questions. However, unlike in the case of gujjubhais, polite smiles nods don't suffice. You've to give details. Too bad you didn't bump into one of those.

The ladies were wearing off-shoulder dresses, halter necks, cleavage revealing tops, the kind of clothes you would find Nicole Kidman wearing on Oscar night.
Whatever happened to leaves and animal skins? And even those bhadkeele-chamkeele African kapde?

Ok said...

You always seem to have had a drop too much;). Reminds me of Harry in Three Men in a Boat.

In any case I loved the gujju para. I hate gujjus for the same reason.


Maddy said...

gujjus here are also very direct - they start with three questions. you live in own house or rented? are you engineer or doctor and you have green card?

nicole kidman type? I thought there is reasonably good balance up there keeping the centre of gravity under control..ah i get it! you mentioned serena as well..

Vijay said...

When you first bought up "Watermelon" in your earlier post, I was racking my brains.. took me until this post to understand it.... you speak from a much higher plain.. lol.. pun intended..

narendra shenoy said...

@drenched-The ladies are tres chic. And for some reason, most guys are seen wearing business suits even when engaged in distinctly un-boardroom-like activities like selling live chickens.

@ok - I do not know the meaning of the word 'no' - especially when people ask me the question "will you have another drink?" ;-)

I love gujjubhais actually. They are a barrel full of laughs. I've got enough material for several posts if I want to write about gujjus. Like all generalizations, there are many honorable exceptions, of course.

@maddy - gujjus in the US are my favorite. I was asked for my underwear size by one of them in an Indian store at Jackson Heights, New York city. You don't want to know the circumstances.

@Vijay - I wish I had photographs. They were not your small, gourmet watemelons. They were the agricultural show first prize category watermelons.

Lavanya said...

60 year old in low waist jeans. Wait, 60 year old gujjubhai in low waist jeans.
And watermelon smugglers, LOL!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

..well hopefully the gujjus werent smuggling watermelons in lowwaist jeans ..

but give us more details about jacksonheights, have intrigued

MAYG said...

LOL @ the gujjubhai queries!

Oh and "watermelon" pretty much gave the true picture... you really could've spared us the gruesome details about them being agricultural show first prize category watermelons!!

Anita said...

nice set of posts on Africa. Have heard much about the planes but can see a whole new set of stories can be told about the place.

Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

LOL, catching up on my posts, dude, and looks like I started with your last one. Oh well, good thing is that the posts seem to stand on their own.

Nice opening passage. Having ridden in small planes, the pogo stick analogy really hit home.