The Rich and Almost Famous

I stood in the yielding mud with my best shoes on. As my heels dug in with every step, my heart sank a little. I was just a regular girl in the middle of the horse stable in all my finery (floral, fitting dress and fancy shoes) and an irregular heart. But I sucked in my breath (and my tummy) and hurried behind Maanan - my host for the evening. He pointed at Blue Moon, a handsome guy with a shining coat and profound eyes, and declared him his favourite. I stopped before Blue Moon and made eye contact. If the favourite horse of the richest man in Uganda can wallow in the mud then so can your shoes, he breathed. I straightened my back, corrected my gait, and weighed on my heels. The awkward light-toed walk instantly disappeared. All was well in la-la land again.

Later that night as the guest sat by the sparkling pool in the teasing winds of Jinja, I relaxed with a glass of pinot-noir in my hand. Olga, Jill, Emily and I were staying in a nearby resort and had just missed the first ever organized polo match in the history of Uganda. As the sky above sparkled and the wine flowed, our excuses for missing the match became more animated. Emily arrived late from Entebbe. No, Jill was getting us fresh bagels. Actually, Ishita took forever with her hair dryer. You know what, Olga drove Jill’s car like a maniac and that’s why it smoked and smoked and we screamed and screamed. Amidst the lazy banter and the cheerful company, I etched in my memory my first brush with the rich and almost famous of Uganda.

After dinner, as we were driving towards the local lounge Jill’s car smoked and smoked and spluttered something indecipherable and finally died. Luckily I managed to pull over to the side of the road, Jill congratulated herself. The cars whizzed by, vaguely conscious of our bright parking lights and Olga made a quick call to Maanan. Damsels in distress, she SOSed. Minutes later, he was by our side taking complete control of the situation. He knew some people, he said. He left Jill’s car at the closest petrol station (it miraculously made the 50 meter journey) and shook hands with the owner in a significant way. Yes, Maanan knew some petrol station owners and car mechanics too. The distressed damsels piled into his SUV and made it to the local lounge.

The night ended uneventfully after a round of drinks and a repaired car. Jill drove it back to our resort with steely determination. We had breakfast the next day and sunbathed for a while and I didn’t think this particular weekend needed a special post. Because, it still hadn’t sunk in that the rich family in Uganda was really the richest family in Uganda. Or that the polo match was the first ever in Ugandan history. Or that it would make Tuesday’s national daily. All I understood at that point was that I had vacationed at a rather lovely resort and dined with some affluent people. Nothing significant.

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But things changed that weekend when the half English-half Japanese beautiful man fell in love with me at the sunglass party. You know, he whispered over the din, and this may sound very cheesy but you have the most genuine smile I have ever seen. I widened my smile at him and nodded vigorously. Yes, you are right, that was cheesy. My lower teeth appeared and joined in the gambit to flash a full blast of sparkling pearlies. The beautiful man staggered a little and leaned over to plant a kiss on my cheek. My jaw began to ache.

As the night wore on, we kept exchanging small talk. We also exchanged our sunglasses. The beautiful man told me that he had found his red pair in Tanzania. When a boda driver appeared out of nowhere and almost killed him, the beautiful man had asked for his fanciful shades. It is the least he owed me, he explained. I kept smiling my genuine smile.

But he didn’t forget his glasses. When it was finally time to leave at the magic hour, Olga and I said our goodbyes and started walking away. The beautiful man came running after me. My glasses! He shrieked. You know how precious they are. I nodded solemnly, remembering the barter of life and death. We exchanged sunglasses. And that was that.

But I never would have been invited to the private dinner party at Maanan’s house again had it not been for the beautiful man. And I never would have realized that Maanan was related to the who’s who of Bollywood. You mean, you are Mumtaz’s nephew, I asked. He laughed and whipped out his fancy cellphone with photographic evidence (not of Mumtaz, but Zayed Khan and Fardeen Khan). My red sunglasses and the boda driver, the beautiful man sniveled in the background. But I paid no attention. After all, are the stories of the lives equivalent to fake plastic glasses really significant?

And as I lay in my own bedroom in Maanan’s mansion that night, far away from the cheery conversations in the pool bar, I realized I was out of my element. Only minutes ago, Maanan had offered us a ride back to Kampala on his private plane. I pinched myself hard and realized that there was no way back. I now hobnobbed with jet owners and mansion masters. I now woke up to dancing peacocks outside my window. I now was on first-name terms with handsome horses. I now understood the rich and almost famous.
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And I now effectively greeted and bid adieu to my fellow inmates with sprightly kisses on both cheeks.

But you just kissed me on one cheek, I had said to the beautiful man when we were saying our goodbyes.

Because I want to remain significant, he had replied. Two cheeks mean nothing special.

I gave him a sidelong look and continued to kiss the rest goodbye.

Yes, he murmured softly. Two cheeks is just one too many.
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1 comment:

victor said...

one question: are you really in africa?

statement: you better have brought out a novel,cos i havent seen this sorta style anywhere else.