Here is the barber. To enjoy this story, first read part 1
“Chaali [boy], you see me. I enjoyed Secondary School. Man, when you have money, it is difficult to notice that others are suffering. This life is bad. I used to be loaded while at school. I did not know that after school life is different. I wish I had focused on my books.
Our dad was like a soldier. He sat us down – my brother and I – and said ‘I will take you to good schools. If you blow your chances, you will suffer in your adult life alone. So, mature quickly and read your books. Girls should wait. If someone has money, let it be your reason to read hard – if they beat you with eats, beat them with good marks.’ I did not listen. I was like, this ‘zeeyi’ [this old man], is still living in old times.
Dad took me to a good Kampala school, where the children of some big people were. It was a desert in my suitcase – no grab. No eats. No money. And boy, these South Sudanese guys, would come with dollars. They go to the canteen and ‘download’ all of it. You see the guy carrying chapatis, g-nuts and a full basket of biscuits, milk. Man, poverty is a deadly disease. The guy would look at you and just say, hi, let me come and we revise maths. I would look at the human being and, in my mind, abuse him “you are going to eat all those things and start gassing for me, as I teach you for free. To hell.” I would not say it. I would just smile and say, yes, you come.
When someone beats you with money, you accept it!
You are there just looking at them as they enjoy and buy all the good things. It killed my self-confidence. You are like, what did I do to deserve this. So, being a day student, I had to do something about it. And I would go to my brother and ask to help wash his clothes. Sometimes he would give me money. Other times, he would leave some cash like Ugx. 10,000 in the pocket. Man, just Ugx. 5,000 would make me change my walking style.
I needed the Sudanese to know that I do not joke.
One day, while around senior three, my brother told me that if you want money, come, and learn how to cut hair. Sometimes I have customers and I am too tired to work on all of them. Why don’t you come, and we work? Feel free to join me on weekends when you are not at school.
I went to the saloon one day, I started learning. I became a star just within two months. People wanted me to work on them. As I succeeded in the saloon, my results started suffering. Senior four came, and I passed but not good. So, my brother said, man, you are a natural. The ladies who needed a cut would all come and wait for me.
I started cutting classes. Now that was in senior five. I was promoted to senior six. But now the money was coming. I was now having it like the Sudanese guys. Imagine being in senior six and you have about Ugx. 200,000 cash pocket money. I was known as one of the rich people. I loved it.
Unfortunately, I failed senior six. My brother said since you are a natural at hair makeover, come and do this job.
My father did not entertain the idea. He came one day and found me in a saloon. He almost killed me. He ordered me to go back to senior five and complete and join University. Else, he would never help me again. I told him that was impossible.
At the time, someone had just set up a new saloon in the garden city and was attracting great high-end customers. He had been a customer at my brother’s saloon. So, he called me and other people to apply for jobs.
We were over five of us. New barbers. There were five people to cut hair. The customers sat, and we were asked to go and start trimming their hair. My customer that day was the real boss. After all of us had completed, they gave us a small piece of paper to write the salary we desired to do our best.
I wrote Ugx. 250,000. Others wrote Ugx. 400,000.
We gave the papers to a lady, whom I later got to learn, was the wife of the owner. She looked at my salary request and wrote there Ugx. 350,000. I re-wrote my salary expectations.
And thereafter, I got the job.
This money was a lot for me. I was living with my colleagues in a house paying a monthly rent of Ugx. 150,000, of which my share was Ugx. 50k. The saloon was close to where I lived. So, I had over Ugx. 200,000 to spoil me.
I decided not to go for further studies.
I knew that the barber business would give me more money.
I was wrong. Now I have a child. I need at least Ugx. 500,000 to live in this Kampala. Man, if you have children, make sure you dictate. Do not allow democracy. They don’t know what they are doing. Make sure they invest in books.
Now our kind of work, there is no way to expand revenue. This owner cannot pay me more than Ugx. 400,000. You see, the money is eaten by rent and you customers pay little money. If you pay Ugx. 10,000 per head. I have to cut 100 heads to make a million. By that time, I am so tired. Now, you people take a week for the hair to grow. It means we have to find new customers every day to survive. It is not easy.”
My barber can tell stories. They have life lessons too.
If you do not take advantage of your time at school, you will find tough days ahead. Read.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2019. All rights reserved.