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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Kicommando gone bad

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

"It ain't over till it's over." Former baseball star Yogi Berra said that before everyone else turned it into a mantra. But it was not until a few weeks back that its true meaning pierced me in the stomach like a Kalahari bushman's arrow.

I was stumbling my way home one evening when hunger pangs dragged me to the dusty and busy Nakulabye roadsides where throngs of people were waiting for their rolexes and kicommando.

Until then, the only thing I knew about kicommando was that it's some form of Ugandan-made fast meal which self-proclaimed ghetto president, singer Bobi Wine, glamourises in one of his songs by that title, as a quintessential meal that ought to be enjoyed by every ordinary urbanite.

So I arrive at this rolex stall where this man is flipping the chapatti on a hot kisaniya and I ask him in my faltering Luganda:

"Kikomando kya meka Ssebo?"

"Bitano, boss," he replies without looking at me.

"Nkolelayo," I say as I dole him a Shs500 coin, which I had only moments earlier discovered - to my joy - in the small pocket of my faded blue jeans.

The kicommando chef then briskly scooped a chapatti from a pile with his hands, laid it on some black [blackened by dirt of course] wood and proceeded to chop it to bits.

Suddenly, his cheeks swell like a toad's and I watch shocked as he blows into a kaveera like a child inflating a balloon. He collects the chapatti pieces, which he packs in said kaveera, adds beans and uses his big spoon to sprinkle some soup before he hands me my package.

I walk the remaining distance to my ghetto home with a mind preoccupied with the spit that could have found itself lodged in my supper when the 'chef' blew into the kaveera. That's when the idea of throwing away my meal accosts me but my grumbling belly reminds me I must be crazy to entertain such a thought this hungry night.

I begin to think of good things like how tastier my kicommando is going to be; the protein-filled beans together with the fresh chapatti that certainly will energise this broke bloke. Plus the soup is steaming hot leaving the germs no chance of inflicting harm when they are burnt to death.

My mind then wanders to how the name kicommando came to be. If it is from commando, a member of a military assault unit trained to operate quickly and deliver, especially in threatening situations then it's a super name and the best antidote to my hunger.

Later in my room, on the floor, I close my eyes and hurry through my kicommando at the end of which I feel full like a pregnant woman. I'm almost jumping into my bed when I get this creepy taste in my mouth. I rush outside and throw up. By now the toxin is ringing loudly.
Before I know it I'm holding my stomach painfully; the kicommando is strangling my intestines. I rush to the toilet and the whoosh warns me this must be cholera. The doctor is called, and it's another three days before I sigh with relief.

That's when I decide to end it. That's when I proclaim for all the world to hear - it's over - my rendezvous with the (in)famous kicommando!

--Daily Monitor, January 7, 2008