11 Dec 2018


Lugala At Large: Breast-feeding Babies Smoking Shisha In Juba

"They will puff smoke on the poor babies until they fall asleep on the weak laps of their shisha smoking-mothers. The babies will wake up with red eyes like some juvenile drunkards."

By Victor Lugala

Times are hard and the tough women of Juba know better how to smoke out their daily worries of this dollar-driven economy.

Smoking shisha is not only chic but it has been in vogue like skin bleaching. (By the way, some men are also bleaching their ultra-dark skins so they can look photogenic like film stars.)
Wherever you turn you can see a shisha joint here and there. Shisha and tea or coffee go hand in hand.
At a certain point, city council authorities tried to ban shisha smoking - they didn’t say whether it was only in public - but they also didn’t explain the reason behind the ban. And in any case, some of the people who were supposed to crack down on the shisha joints were themselves already shisha addicts, so they looked the other way.
Times are hard. Women have become the breadwinners of most families in Juba.
Ordinary women –or the Kapukis of this world- eke out a modest living selling legemat pancakes, charcoal, black-market petrol, mokoyo beer, food, tea, plaiting hair, and other things that are not for public consumption.
To cope with economic hardships, women have turned to smoking shisha as a pastime, as their idle husbands escape home to hang out under trees or shop verandahs playing dominoes, cards, engaging in a spitting spree, or begging for free drinks in local bars.
When women become breadwinners gender roles change, which come with self-censorship when idle husbands freeze in their tongues.
Barefaced, some housewives will brush off their husbands with a tongue lash. In our Juba English they would say a man who wears a trouser is supposed to be a sponsor.

With a husband who has not received salary in six months and is unable to put food on the table, what moral authority does he have to demand for an evening meal in the house?
And if his wife cooked a decent meal of, say chicken, can he have the guts to ask his wife where she got the money to buy luxury food?
Men’s heads are like pressure cookers. They bottle up their emotions until they are taken down with a heart attack or a combination of malaria and typhoid.
What has helped women throughout history is talking. They talk, talk, and talk to flush out negative emotions in their chests.
Women don’t talk to themselves. They need a pair of ears willing to listen to their story of complaint or agony, or new-found love.
So women will look for a forum for banter or to ventilate their problems. This is a classic old village school adaptation. Village women used to collect firewood in the forest or fetch water from a distant river. While there they would talk and laugh and the forest and the hills and the valleys would echo their laughter and happiness.
In Juba women get water from the Habash water tanker, which comes to their doorsteps. They also don’t go to the forest to collect firewood for fear of the unknown gunman; they can buy charcoal from the nearest kiosk.
But women will always go to the market with their meager budget to buy food for the children and their idle husbands, or just for window-shopping.

On their way back, some of them must pass by a shisha joint to catch up with juicy stories from other quarters.
Some of the women are visibly pregnant. When they smoke the belly bump is smoked as well.
Some of them have no baby sitters, so they carry their troublesome babies to the shisha joints, where they can breastfeed their babies as they smoke. They will puff smoke on the poor babies until they fall asleep on the weak laps of their shisha smoking-mothers. The babies will wake up with red eyes like some juvenile drunkards.        
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