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Monday, September 22, 2014

Facing the knife is macho

Dennis D. Muhumuza shares why circumcision is manly and not for the fainthearted.

Don’t be deceived; circumcision remains a macho thing regardless of where it is done. Some say that only cowards go to hospital and real men face the crude-looking traditional knife as used live among the Bagisu. But as I found out on August 19, and in the three weeks of throbbing pain and discomfort that followed, even medical circumcision is not for the fainthearted.

A wooden phallus showing the beauty of a circumcised penis
On that day, which coincided with this year’s imbalu season, I woke up with excitement as I was finally going to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time—the removal of my foreskin. I was also apprehensive in case the procedure went horribly wrong like the case of a man whose tip of the penis got severed off!

But the doctor who welcomed me that morning allayed my fears saying the circumcisers were experienced experts who had no record of messing up. He held a wooden phallus depicting the beauty of a circumcised male organ. He articulated the rewards of circumcision: it being a HIV/Aids preventive measure, hygienic benefits and better sex. He was so convincing that had he pulled out a knife then I would have faced it without anaesthesia.

Next, I was counselled and HIV-tested by a doctor who asked me to be honest and tell him how many times I have had sex this year, and whether I used a condom. The way he talked you would think I’m a sex machine with unrivalled notoriety for hanky-panky.

After that, I was shown into a small room to remove my clothes and wear a circumcision gown. Therein, I found a plus size boy of about 12 who looked dead-frightened and asked me in a shivering voice if I thought it would hurt. Obviously he had been dragged to face the knife.

I was moments later stunned to discover that the physician who was going to circumcise me was not only female but also a ravishing beauty. My eyes quickly run to her fingers looking for a wedding ring. Alas! her hands were gloved. She looked me in the eye and ordered me with professional authority to lie on my back on the operating table. I lay there in utter surrender, spread my legs and closed my eyes praying that her first touch would not make my body react. “I’m going to anaesthetise you and it won’t hurt thereafter,” she said tenderly, like a mother to her beloved child.

Three times I felt dizzying pricks of injection at the base of my sexual organ and wanted to yelp like a little girl. But I remembered a Mugisu young man somewhere who as the traditional knife descends sharply on his foreskin is not expected to wince no matter the pain. What I was facing in the hospital paled in comparison, and that helped me to face my trial with courage.

The procedure took about 20 minutes. I was then ushered into another room where a doctor advised me to clean my member with salty water twice everyday and to let the stitches come out of their own accord. I was also strongly warned against having sex before six weeks have elapsed, and to use a condom in the first six months after that.

The pain began on my way home. Ceaseless, stinging pain like red ants were mauling me beneath the bandages. For the next fortnight, I could not walk. And I could not sleep. It would get worse while passing urine. The morning erections brought unbearable pain too. I was swollen. In panic, I called one of my doctor friends, who brought me some liquid with which to cleanse the wound and powdered antidote to apply thereafter. This really helped. At the end of the third week, I began wearing trousers again and going about my business without pain.

Today I’m glad it’s all over. The three-week discomfort and pain helped me to rediscover my ability to endure. I feel better, cleaner and stronger. Circumcision regardless of where it’s done is truly a rite of passage that turns big boys into real men.

--Sunday Monitor, September 21, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

A poet’s view of society dynamics


The first time I saw the title of the book, it evoked in my mind an image of graceful movement. Poetry in Motion is an eclectic collection of 49 poems grouped in five parts, each devoted to a particular theme. This arrangement creates a flow. It also means a variety of readers are remembered. A lover of sights and sounds will appreciate the poetic techniques used, for instance, in the first part, 'Rhythm and Rhymes' with its vibrantly descriptive nature.

The second section, 'Cakes and Candles', gives you a clue about the kind of poems you find here; poems inspired by birthdays and other celebratory days.

'Riddles of Fortune', the third section, captures everyday struggles in our society, for example what people
“When I got money
I drank wine and gin
dished out to everyone
that hailed my name!
Now I’m penniless
now I’m hopeless
whoever I fed
is laughing at me!”
go through while looking for money and the ramifications that come with reckless spending. This is explicitly depicted in the poem, Lamentations, which begins thus;

In 'Thorns and Roses', the poet, in seven poems, captures the contrasting emotions that come with falling in love; the joys and pains, hence the image “thorns and roses”.

The last section, 'Gospel Truth', has five poems, all inspired by religious beliefs and Christian living.

Poetry in Motion is Ivan Matthias Mulumba’s first publication as a poet and author, and it is a commendable effort. It is devoid of those structural and grammatical errors that stain most self-published Ugandan works because of the 10-year incubation period it enjoyed before hitting the bookstores. Being a member of the Femrite Readers Club, Mulumba used the opportunity to have his poems critiqued by club members, and used their feedback to improve them.

A graduate of Land Economics from Makerere University, Mulumba started writing poetry in primary school, but his interest peaked in high school when he was introduced to the poetry of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). This is his Number One inspiration, followed by Uganda’s Henry Muwanga Barlow of the Building the Nation fame.

What Mulumba shares with his mentors is a keen observation of society and its dynamics. Some of his poems are written to capture a moment and provoke the reader to look into the life of various narrators and what drives them.

Poetry in Motion can basically be summed up as an anthology that chronicles the first steps of a poet, and captures the beliefs, experiences and some ideologies in society.

--Saturday Monitor, September 6, 2014