I recently met my once best friend Kanabi, all grown, clean shaven and looking like the ideal Kampala hustler. He looked like he had found the Higgs Boson of Poverty and somehow, had manipulated it to find a way out. Kanabi now had a Kanabi junior. I was shocked. Trends had changed. Girls who once wanted to marry at 20 are now opting for 30 while boys who preferred to get married at 30, are now going for 25. But that isn’t the issue now. The issue at hand was Kanabi.
Kanabi and I had met in boarding primary school, a one famous one along the Entebbe high way. Kanabi had this distinct aura about him, like one who had actually Hi-fived God as he was being born because that’s how special he was. But that also isn’t the issue now. Kanabi, Kanabi, Kanabi. Everyone was drawn to Kanabi.
Kanabi was my best friend way back in primary school. He knew his way around the school. He knew it like the back of his hand, like he was there when each brick was being laid 50 plus years ago. Whenever we wanted to sneak in and out of the locked dormitory, he knew which window we needed to bend to fit our tiny bodies through.
Kanabi could tell time, lunch time especially. Rain or shine, Kanabi could smell the boiled beans with enough weevils to feed whatever weevils feed on. Before the bell rang, Kanabi was already making the line at the dining hall. And for me who had just joined, still fragile and fresh, Kanabi was the perfect teacher. In boarding school where there was barely nothing to eat, Kanabi taught me how to forage for food. Kanabi taught me that tooth paste could actually become bread spread. Kanabi taught me that some flowers could actually be eaten. Kanabi taught me that you didn’t need a panga to peel a coconut. Kanabi taught me that the dustbin fire could come in handy when you are roasting nsenene(grass hoppers) in that mathematical set you bought at the begin of the school term. Kanabi taught me that everything and anything could be eaten, from banana and orange peelings to raw potatoes and cassava. And that getting the cassava and raw potatoes could be done in the night, in the teachers’ garden. Kanabi was awesome.
Kanabi rewrote and redefined the survival for the fittest manual. Kanabi did all these things at a very tender age of 9 years. Kanabi and I emulated the typical Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Whatever the school threw at us, we found our way around. The greatest lie Kanabi ever told me, was that whenever the clouds brewed and wanted to throw up, and the leaves picked up and were being blown around, that I if I picked one of the leaves before they touched the ground, my parents would visit me that weekend. So I prayed that it would rain every Friday such that they could come visit me the next day. Kanabi, Kanabi, Kanabi.
Now as I saw a boy, now man, all grown up, all I could hope for was that Kanabi Junior continued his father’s legacy.