Lugala At Large: "When God Rained Anger" In Juba

"Some people in Juba have no idea who Albino was. The man was a wealthy contractor. In his youth he made adventures in the gold frontiers of Mobutu’s Zaire, before CNN discovered the Congo River."

By Victor Lugala
 
 
Last Friday afternoon I multiplied myself. I wanted to be in different places, doing different things at the same time, if to maximise on the very limited universal resource called Time. I entered a pharmacy and came out feeling cold and giddy when the rain started falling. I thought it would last for a short time and I would be able to multiply myself elsewhere before dusk, before night fall.
 
Heavy rain on a Friday night especially is always welcome for a sound night sleep and for one to wake up late on Saturday morning when the wind blows gently. But in Juba night rain invites thieves and the unknown gunman. The city has been dusty, hot, and humid. Some crops in the farm have withered even when there are vibrations of peace. So, come on rain.
 
I waited for the rain to stop. It was an angry torrent.
 
The whole city was soaked through and through. The roof of the veranda of Tayfour Pharmacy leaked in multiple places. Could it be the same roof since the founding of the pharmacy in 1976 as the signboard on the roof announces? Well, any child born the same year must now be a parent, a celibate priest or nun, an imam, a mad person, or dead like the rusty nail supporting the leaky roof. In this case Juba pharmacy, or better known as Dr Philip’s Pharmacy, must have been the first pharmacy in Juba then. 
 
Selling medicines to people is lucrative business. That is why village witchdoctors are competing with people who spent six years burning the midnight oil in medical school.  Because of poor hygiene, poverty, bad habits or lifestyles, bad luck, old age, or wear and tear, people must fall sick, feel pain and suffer. They need medicine to get well, or risk dying.
 
Selling medicines is like that guy's business at Munuki trading centre - hate him or like him - he sells cardboard coffins - even ready ones- for a living. They say he made a fortune during the crisis in July 2016. See how somebody’s tears translate into somebody’s fortune, oh!
 
The rainstorm is causing visibility problems, even havoc in some neighbourhoods, I presume. I can't see beyond Dr Philip’s Pharmacy. Konyonkonyo market must be floating in a lake. Lo'bulyet stream must be bubbling over the Albino bridge crossing.
 
Some people in Juba have no idea who Albino was. The man was a wealthy contractor. In his youth he made adventures in the gold frontiers of Mobutu’s Zaire, before CNN discovered the Congo River.
 
An hour later the rainstorm had not stopped. And it was getting late for me to run some errands by multiplying myself. Some petty traders must be counting losses in the open-air markets of Juba. When it takes too long to rain, the people of Juba will blame some unknown juju trader for withholding the rain. Any rainmakers still out there? 
 
Long time ago, during Stone Age (which in our case was just the other day), a rainmaker who withheld rain with magic from hot stones in a pot were beaten up and roasted alive.
 
My people who never stop complaining about this or that problem will always attribute their predicament to somebody or something. Some will even say God is angry because our cumulative sins are immeasurable. So when it rains heavily like last Friday, they will say God is furious that’s why he sent rainstorm to sweep away the rot of our iniquities.
 
I'm surrounded by young women in their twenties, in their early pregnancies, eight of them in all, taking shelter in the veranda like me. It was as if they knew each other. As if they hailed from the same neighbourhood or village. As if they were pregnated by the same man who planned to raise a mercenary army. (Pregnancy is like madness, it can force you to like some colours, food, or detest some people.)
 
Three of the women wore red dresses or dresses with red patterns. The others pointed at them jokingly but also timidly, pointing at the colour of their red dresses, that they would attract lightning. They also whispered that my T-shirt was in harm’s way. I protested, correcting them that the colour of my T-shirt was maroon. They shrugged. After all, colour is colour.
 
For a minute, while gazing at the puddles created by the rainstorm, I thought about lightning.  The stories I have heard since childhood about people who got struck, or rather electrocuted by lightning are almost invariable the same. They say victims of lightning looked dark as if they were covered in soot or solid lava, or even tar. Oh, black death! I hate such death where the body is covered in carbon powder.
 
One of the ladies who wore a short cream-coloured dress had a pronounced belly bump. She looked happy with herself. And she was the only one who was talkative and paced the leaky veranda like a factory inspector -good exercise for her condition. When lightning cracked and lit up the sky she would cover her ears with her open palms, instead of touching or covering her swollen belly to protect the little angel. At least one of them, the one in a red skirt and black top, kept to herself. She stood or squatted. Maybe she took the comments seriously about lightning being attracted to red surfaces or objects. Superstition! Maybe the angel in her belly was doing gymnastics. Maybe she was missing the man who made her pregnant. Maybe she was already thinking as to whether hers would be a normal delivery or through caesarean section, which has become a common digital factor.
 
By digital factor I mean young pregnant women of these days do less physical exercise. They spend much of their time sitting or chatting on their smartphones, not like our old mothers who pounded corn, carried water on their heads, worked in the field, or even dodged blows from an abusive husband, yet delivered normally to sprightly, bouncing babies.  
 
God must really be furious with us. His anger was visualised in the rainstorm. I pity the homeless drunks at Konyokonyo who huddle around the atrophied fig tree, which once upon a time was a landmark when Juba was young.
 
During and after war, there's always a baby boom. In our case the baby boom generation is (just) to 'fill the gap', as our people often say, as if it was a state-sponsored project to populate the landscape. 
 
Already in the leaky veranda we are expecting eight baby boomers early next year. Hopefully, the economy will have boomed then, and their parents will be able to afford nappies, toys, school fees, fun.
 
The rain was now falling gently and the first people to sprint out of their ‘hideout’ were some barefoot boys covering their heads with cartons. The same cartons make their bed at night. These were some of the baby boomers of yesteryears who hang around the Green Rokon black spot, inhaling intoxicating substance from plastic bottles. They are populating the urban landscape, for they too belong to project 'filling the gap'.
 
 
 
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