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Jennifer Makumbi


Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Makumbi is a Ugandan doctoral student at Lancaster University. She lives in Manchester with her son. The Joys of Manhood is part of her second novel, The Hamites. Her research interests include African feminisms and masculinities, African Oral traditions, and African women writers writing in the west.


 The Joys of Fatherhood


Kintu felt relieved as he walked away from home. The relief was unnatural because he was embarking on a long and perilous journey from which he could well be carried back with a severed head. Nonetheless, that Dumbi midnight, at the launch of Kyabaggu’s reign, before Buganda time was surrendered to the British to make this the year of our Lord 1740, Kintu Kiddawalime the Ssabaddu was glad to step away from the security and comfort of his home into an uncertain future.

He had not seen her since morning when he chanced on her taking goats to the ggwatiro to feed on banana peels. Her murky eyes, had stormed at him then. Now, as he stepped away from the threshold of his home, Kintu looked back. The house was dark and silent. As instructed, everyone was in bed. He prayed that Babirye had not set her jinxing eyes on the party as they set off. Kintu shooed Babirye and her evil eyes out of his mind. It was unwise to carry the extra weight of a glowering woman on this journey.

The midnight air was cold and calm, fireflies were playing, malicious spirits were asleep. Kintu was heartened. They would make good progress before sunrise. The gentle breeze would soothe, restraining fatigue while their feet chipped at the journey until the sun woke up to let distance mock their effort and set Dumbi heat upon them.

Kintu was on his way to Mmengo the capital. He had a small entourage of twenty-five bambowa, all combatants. Through a rotation system, they would form a security unit, a food and brew unit and a wardrobe unit, from midnight to midday, when they would take a break. Kintu did not know what to expect of the new kabaka, but to take a large entourage was reckless. If Kyabaggu wanted to slay him, his bambowa, despite their numbers, would not protect him. Instead, he could jeopardise the men’s lives. Who knows what neuroses Kyabaggu suffered? As a new kabaka who had plucked the throne from his own brother’s clutches, Kyabaggu would be insecure. These were terrible times to be of royal birth. Kings and princes lived the shortest of lives, hence they were crazed lives. Any prince could stake a claim to the throne and if victorious, would massacre his brothers and cousins, but this would not deter him from siring like a rabbit. Clever women did not declare their sons as princes. Cleverer women who did not declare princes watched the throne to alert their sons when to seize it.

So far, in his thirty years as chief, Kintu had served five kings and was on his way to meet the sixth, Kyabaggu. First, he served Kagulu the sadist who was drowned by his own sister Nassolo. Then Kikulwe killed by his brother Mawanda because, as Mawanda later claimed, Kikulwe had plotted to kill him. Unfortunately, Mawanda’s royalty was disputed and was assassinated by three renegade nephews. Then, the three renegades succeeded each other in utter madness. The first renegade, Mwanga, in vain sacrificed a maternal cousin to enjoy a long reign; the cousin’s enraged father killed him within nine days of ascension. Then came Namugala the second renegade, sentimental and creative, recently crowned in an elaborate ritual at Naggalabi. Everyone thought there would be peace and quiet but Kyabaggu the third renegade had other ideas.

Kintu pondered the covert role played by women in the instability of the crown. The three renegades shared a mother, Nabulya, who although her husband Musanje died a mere prince, coveted the throne and through her three sons aspired to be more than a dead prince’s widow. If only royals looked beyond beauty in their choice of women, perhaps the throne would be more secure. Kintu hoped that wherever Namugala was, he was incapable of returning. Kyabaggu should have been more decisive and destroyed his brother then Kintu’s allegiance would be solid. But with Namugala still alive, chiefs like Kintu would keep glancing over their shoulders in case he bid a successful return. Nonetheless, Kintu could not wait to get to Mmengo and see what royal madness the throne had thrown up this time.

At first, the party took familiar simple paths. They formed a snake queue skirting sleeping houses, cultivated plots and uncomplicated gardens. The men kept their tones casual to reassure villagers woken by their restless feet. Kintu looked into the distance, the moon, shy, peered from behind a cloud. The night yielded no horizon, yet the outline of the landscape was definite. He knew every rise and fall in the earth, every bush and thicket and every old tree and big stone intimately. Nothing had changed since he first opened his childhood eyes and called Buyirika home. The night seemed mysterious and unyielding to a foreign eye, but to him, there was protection in the obscured familiarity.

After a while, when Buyirika central was behind them, the fireflies went to sleep and the stars woke up. At first, the moon tailed the party like an unwelcome nosy little brother, at a distance. Its ‘man chopping firewood’ was still poised in the same position he was when Kintu was a boy. However, as time drew on, the moon drew close, big and bold, a benign guardian.

From nowhere, Babirye swooped like an eagle into Kintu’s mind. She loomed large and dark, her eyes dusky. Kintu contemplated engaging with her, to tell her that her eyes were wasted on him. Instead, he turned from his reflections and focused on the path ahead of him. In the sky, the moon now huge, sailed ahead, silently urging them on, but the stars were weary and the night exhausted. Had the moon enjoyed their company too long? It raced across the sky as if to catch up on lost time. Kintu looked up in time to catch its tail sinking and a sad thought struck him. That moment, that kindly moon, that him, that stillness of vegetation would never be again. He wanted to still that morsel of time and scrutinise it but before the thought formed, the moment was gone. Kintu looked back; it lay behind him. In fact, all his past lay behind him like a snail trail, visible but inaccessible. Kintu’s head shrilled with intensity. In wishing to stay that moment, Kintu realised his desire to hold the future at bay. ‘That is how we grow old…’Kintu thought,‘… by losing tiny moments like that,’

Suddenly, Kintu’s skin crawled and tightened. He held his breath. There was no tension among his men. The party was still far from hunting lions. His mind raced back home; Nakato, Babirye, the children? It raced round and round his family, but he felt no danger there either. Yet, he felt a threat lurking just beyond perception. He could not share with the men. Whatever the threat, it was his alone.

The moon made it. The moment of suspension when the moon hands the world over to the sun, when they discuss what happened on the nightshift and what to expect on dayshift, held. It did not last long the handover, ten minutes maybe, then the horizon cracked into scarlet rays. From then on, the party walked against the sun, reading its rhythm in the cast of their shadows, measuring their energy against its escalating heat.

Kintu’s mind veered suddenly and there stood Babirye, belligerent. Her identical twin, Nakato, stood next to her, apologetic. There was no shooing them away. Kintu considered his domestic problem glumly. He would have rather dealt with mutiny in his army than a manipulative pouting wife with an attitude of a cobra. He never intended to keep two women in the same house, not even identical twins.

Whenever Kintu contemplated the duality of his twin wives, he could not but see Nakato as the original soul. Despite Nakato being the younger twin, to him,

For Kintu, the Ganda custom that married identical twin women to the same man was preposterous. ‘Twins split in the first place because they cannot be one; why keep them as one in life?’

When Kintu as a lad had first whispered in Nakato’s ear she had reprimanded with a melting smile; “You know you ought to ask Babirye first.” Kintu heard the insincerity in her wistful reply and knew she wanted him to herself. Kintu shook his head playfully; “It is you I want.” This individualisation, this claimed difference, the first in Nakato’s life, was so intoxicating she failed to insist that he ask them both. Instead, she directed Kintu to an aunt who would be ‘sympathetic’ to their situation.

Nonetheless, the twin’s parents rejected the idea of separating them and asked Kintu to at least wait until someone married Babirye the eldest twin.

But no one whispered to Babirye, not even in jest. Kintu’s father died. Kintu became chief. Kintu pressured the parents claiming that as chief he was naked without a wife. The twin’s parents agreed cunningly,

“True, your house is not only incomplete but cold. However, as you know with twins’ traditions, our hands are tied. If you want our Nakato you must marry our Babirye first then come back for Nakato later.”

Kintu rejected the custom. The parents were perplexed; “They are the same person, surely if you want one, you want the other,” but Kintu claimed that the twins’ eyes said different things and he did not like what Babirye’s eyes said. For him, the twins were as unlike as a mouse and a rat; why had no man wanted Babirye enough to marry her?

The parents, now cowering under Kintu’s power and stubbornness, offered both twins at one and a half price, but Kintu still refused. Humiliated and desperate, they offered Babirye free on top of Nakato, a buy one get one free deal, but Kintu would not have her. They resorted to threats.

“We don’t wish you ill, however, you have not only split Babirye from her other half but humiliated her as well.”

“If the girls did not want to be split in the first place, they should have emerged as a single person.” Kintu retorted.

The parents turned to the god of twins and begged for mercy.

After the wedding, Nakato would not settle down to her marriage. She kept going back and forth to check on Babirye. After many seasons, she had not conceived. Kintu blamed Nakato’s restlessness and forbade her from visiting her sister. He decreed that if the twins must see each other, then Babirye, without eddya, should do the gallivanting. Still Nakato did not conceive. The parents hung their heads.

Somehow, Kintu blamed Babirye for Nakato’s reluctant womb. He was convinced that Babirye had punched her sister so hard in the womb Nakato learnt to make peace with her. To him, there was no doubt the power Babirye wielded over Nakato. ‘Oh yes,’ he agreed, ‘twins might have an uncanny sense of each other, but Nakato’s love for her sister is guilt mingled with fear.’ This guilt and fear locked Nakato’s womb. Kintu cited Babirye’s silence over their marriage; Babirye never once opened her mouth to bless Nakato’s marriage without her. Kintu was surprised that Babirye did not devour Nakato in the womb, such twins normally did.

In the end, when Nakato failed to conceive and Babirye failed to marry, Nakato suggested that Babirye come and help her with conception. It would be a deception practiced on his subjects: one identical twin would take the place of the other. At first, Kintu objected, but Nakato’s apparent barrenness had begun to compromise his masculinity and chieftaincy. The expectant whispers, “Is she getting sick yet,” turned from well meaning to prying then petered out. Kintu gave in; better her sister than another woman.

Even though moments with Babirye were few and brief, Kintu felt that Babirye jumped at the chance of becoming his wife, turning her sister into the spinster. On the other hand, Kintu had never seen Nakato happier as she prepared Babirye for the occasion.

Babirye conceived on first touch.

Kintu worried that Babirye took the role too far. She took on the daily running of the home and masqueraded around the village showing off her swelling mound. Was Babirye trying to outdo her sister? But the twins had agreed that Nakato would take a restrained role as she was Babirye looking after her expecting sister. Even then, those first two years being a visitor in her own house, when Babirye took her around the village, when she inspected their estate made Nakato feel barren indeed. Babirye played her part well only that people noticed that Nakato changed when she was pregnant. Her tone was sharper and she was impatient. Old women nodded knowingly; pregnant women were notoriously bad tempered, the chief was clever to stay away and very considerate of Babirye to come and stay with Nakato.

Babirye was generous; she gave Nakato a set of twins.

Nakato was ecstatic.

Babirye nursed the babies until they started running. Then she returned home. Babirye bailed Nakato out four times over, giving birth to identical twins every time. Kintu stayed away in Mmengo during the pregnancies, returning after births. Kintu was conflicted. He resented Babirye but prided in siring twins, the visibility of his virility. His title was Ssabalongo. The community said; “As a man, Kintu is chief.” It made sense why he took his time starting a family. The sisters were tight. They were both called Nnabalongo. The children called both ‘mother’ but Babirye knew that when people called her Nnabalongo, they were talking to her sister, that the children called her mother not because she knelt down in pain to bring them into the world, but because she was their mother’s sister. Babirye’s eight children belonged to Nakato.

Not that Kintu did not marry other women after Nakato, he had scores. They were daughters of fellow chiefs or gifts given to him by ambitious parents. They were scattered around the province and Nakato was in charge of them. When a bride arrived, Nakato named and allocated her a role within the family. Nakato visited them, checking on the children while Kintu was away on kabaka’s duties. When the children were older, Nakato rounded them up and brought them to Namayirika to bond with other siblings and their father. However, Kintu treated the women as duty; Nakato reminded him which wife was due for conception.

Kintu felt bound. He was a prize bull in a herd of horny heifers. His sole domestic duty was to sire. But he was Ssabaddu; why did he have to mount every woman thrown his way? On the other hand, how could he not; he was a man, a human seed dispenser. It should be natural. He should enjoy it. For kings, such gifts were put away to entertain envoys, dignitaries and other guests. Unlike kings, Kintu was not above culture and Nakato was an effective first wife. She put in place a programme. Every wife had to have a child at least once in four years, ideally once in two years. Kintu did his rounds; a week with every wife. This sexual journey through his wives, ebisanja, was more arduous than the trek to Mmengo. The women waited months to see him; they were young, demanding, their expectations high.

The women drained him.

Despite Nakato’s potions, Kintu never felt fully replenished. In any case, Nakato brought the wives that failed to conceive to Namayirika and asked him to double his efforts. Kintu winced at the thought of the potions, they were enslaving. ‘Once you try them, they confiscate what is naturally yours so that you depend on them entirely.’ Probably, young men somewhere envied him every time someone arrived with a shivering virgin, but Kintu was not interested not even in the other twin who writhed and made noises like Nakato. He was no chief, Kintu decided; he was slave to procreation and to Buganda.

Just as the eldest twins were about to get married, Nakato conceived. Kintu did not travel to Mmengo because Nakato’s pregnancy was jittery. Several times, it threatened to fall through. Nakato was emaciated and haggard. Kintu cut down her duties and Babirye took over. Finally, Nakato gave birth to a single child, a son, Baale.

That is when trouble started; Kintu’s apparent favouritism. While to the community Kintu indulged himself and his youngest child, Babirye saw a boundary wedged between her own children and Nakato’s son. Babirye threatened to tell her children the truth; after all, Nakato had her own child now. One day, after a long visit, Babirye took Nakato aside and asked her questions which she answered herself.

Who carried the pregnancies nine months on?
Who laboured excruciatingly on her knees hours on?
Who nursed the children for seasons?
Who packed her bags and left as soon as the children were ready and weaned?
Who does not get to be called mother after all?
Who takes credit and is called Nnabalongo?
Not me.
And when the favourite wife finally opens her womb and delivers a son, whose children instantly fade?
Nakato, have you ever wondered what happens to my breasts as I pack my bags to go home?
No, you have not. I’ll tell you. They weep.

Nakato was mortified; she had Mbuga, she had Namayirika and she had Babirye’s already made children. Yet, apart from loneliness, her sister had nothing. Nakato pleaded with Kintu to tell the children the truth, but he refused. Instead, he threatened to keep Babirye away from his children. Kintu felt that Nakato easily fell under Babirye’s spell, which prompted him to protect her. He asked,
“The problem then is not my favouritism; is it?”

“I don’t know Mbuga.”

“Why didn’t Babirye come to me, why ask you?”

“She is frightened Mbuga, I am the one who asked for her kindness.”

“But the children are mine; not yours, not hers, but mine.”

“They are Mbuga.”

“Next time she wants to discuss my children, tell her to come to me.”

The twins suffered equally; one afflicted by guilt and the lethargy of her womb, the other by the emptiness of her maternal embrace. Nakato was restless, Babirye was angry. Then Nakato found a happy compromise. She went to Mbuga;

“Now that we are getting on, Babirye might as well move in and live with us. After all, you are rarely at home, she’s given me the ultimate gift; why not share the rest with her? Babirye will not only keep me company she will be close to the children, Namayirika is vast.”

“You want me to marry her.”

“You have already married her in every sense except ceremony.”

Kintu saw the sense Nakato made and agreed to marry Babirye on condition that she kept quiet about the children. Kintu preferred to house Babirye far from them like his other wives, but Nakato insisted on sharing Namayirika with her. The community applauded. “It was not right abandoning Babirye like that… he is only a man after all, there is enough of him to go round… whoever thought of separating the twins in the first place?”

There was peace for a long while.

Until recently. Babirye had started grumbling again. This time, the main charge was that Kintu planned to make Baale the next in line in spite of his older children. Kintu agreed he was partial to Baale, but that was because he was his youngest. Except that this was not entirely true, Baale was Nakato’s ‘last’ child but not Kintu’s youngest. As for making Baale heir, Kintu was in a dilemma. All Babirye’s twins were identical; to put one twin on the seat was to ask for trouble, what would he do with the other? The Ganda never made twins heirs to anything and Kintu was not planning to be the first. Besides, with Babirye’s disposition; who knows what she would do to Nakato if he died and one of her sons became chief? There was no question of making another woman’s child heir. That left him with one candidate- Baale.

Babirye had another complaint. When her turn came to cook for Kintu, when he spent a week in her quarters, Kintu came at night, already fed. He barely managed to stick a finger into her cooking, lick it, before falling asleep. It was clear to Babirye that Kintu visited when Nakato pushed him. To Kintu this complaint was immaterial; he never chose which wife to lie with and he did not visit his other wives more often than Babirye. The problem was that while Nakato worried about her sister’s welfare and begged him to spend more time with her even during her own turn, Babirye complained incessantly.

Kintu made up his mind:

Firstly, he was going to build a house for Babirye away from Namayirika and move her; she can tell the children if she wants. If any of them dared to turn against Nakato, he would turn them out of his life. Kintu shifted the knot of his backcloth on his shoulder decisively.

Secondly, Baale was his heir. It was time to start moulding him. First, he would apprentice him, then present him to the Kabaka as the next in line and finally get him married.

Kintu was grateful for the distance and space the journey had given him. Because of recent royal turmoil, he had not travelled beyond his province for a long time. Such proximity to domestic politics clouded his vision and decisions. Now that he had stepped away from home, everything stood in crisp clarity. When his attention returned to the path before him, Kintu marvelled at the distance they had covered. He had been so engrossed in his woes he had not seen the lush black-green foliage thin into spiky, miserly grass around him. Unlike home where vegetation had a zest for life, the vegetation was lethargic, sparse and sickly yellow.

Kintu turned his mind to the men’s conversation. They conversed to take their minds away from the hot sun, their numb feet, and to maintain good cheer. Gitta was the unfortunate subject of their gossip. He had recently given Buyirika the sort of gossip that sustained strenuous work, the sort that did not die easily. Everyone had an opinion, but Kintu never took part in the morale-sustaining banter. When they attempted to include him, he simply smiled with the skin of his mouth.

“At Gitta’s age, a bride like Ssanyu could only hasten his grave.”

“How would he know that Ssanyu was a toddler? She was his height and had breasts on the wedding day.”

“Firstly, when he found out that she preferred the company of toddlers to his, and secondly, when she grew head and shoulders above him. Surely, that was the time to stop and think.”

“Her parents are to blame. They knew she was barely crawling when they married her off.”

“Ssanyu is not a baby; she is one of those women who can’t bear the touch of a man.”

“In that case Gitta is stuck with a man.”

“What do you mean stuck with a man; a woman is a woman.”

“He should have made her pregnant first thing.”

“Could he? The girl is a wrestler.”

“As I said, pregnancy would have tamed her. You can’t say he could not make her pregnant.”

“You only have one wife so far, the only other woman you know is your mother. Come and talk to us when you have married your fourth.”

“Her family was negligent; Ssanyu wasn’t sufficiently prepared for marriage.”

Kintu would have rather redirected this conversation. Gitta was a prominent elder and a cornerstone to the community, but one public mistake had felled him. Kintu’s guts churned as he watched puppies hopping up and down a lion’s carcass, dissecting it with clipped teeth. He hoped fatigue would shut them up.

“I blame his eldest wife, when I bring home a girl like Ssanyu, I expect my eldest wife to take her on and guide her.” Nnondo the Headman said.

“That depends on the first wife you married.”

“That is if you are not man enough.”

These were spiky words meant to poke. They said much more. They stood outside this conversation. They were an old monologue by Nnondo directed at Kintu. In the past, when Kintu ascended the chieftaincy, the words were accompanied by a sharp look. Nnondo had sensed a weakness in young Kintu, a sentimentality that would compromise the chieftaincy. At the same time, Nnondo sought to be Kintu’s guardian on the premise that Kintu was young and Nnondo had been his father’s right hand. Nnondo’s motivation was partly avuncular, to protect the precocious young chief and partly ambition. But Kintu denied Nnondo the space to manoeuvre, especially as he took sides with the twins’ parents against him marrying Nakato. To attain manhood and autonomy, Kintu married young. Nnondo was embittered. Through the years, Kintu kept his contempt for Nnondo to himself. As far as he was concerned, Nnondo imagined that a chief ran a province the way a man ruled a home. Nnondo’s power spread over women unfortunate to marry him and children unlucky to be born to him. Such men propped themselves up as chiefs in their homes over their families.

That morning, Nnondo’s words, which were normally ignored, hit home. It was the wrong day; Kintu had been vexed by Babirye all morning. The words slowly metamorphosed into an invisible noose around Nnondo’s neck. Kintu focused his fury at Nnondo’s head, clean-shaven, glistening in oily sweat. That head had entertained ideas about Nakato, Nakato who was out of bounds. The only person he shared Nakato with, albeit grudgingly, was Babirye. Kintu’s eyes slid down to Nnondo’s neck; it was one of those deeply ringed necks, which looked great on a woman but feminised a man. The rings on Nnondo’s neck became nature’s guide to an executioner’s blade. Meanwhile, Nnondo carried on walking, laughing oblivious to the fact that he had just hugged death.

Kintu relented. He decided to retire Nnondo, but not before he let him know that he was a leopard, he killed quietly. He would make Nnondo a big feast to celebrate his service to him and to his father. Then he would lead Nnondo away and inform him that he wished to take his head. If Nnondo asks him why, he would say; “Because your head offended me.” If Nnondo fell on his knees and begged, he would call Nakato and show her a frightened man. Naturally, Nakato would plead to spare Nnondo’s head, which he would do reluctantly. Then he would ask Nnondo; “Where would your head be if I did not listen to her? Nakato is at once venom and the antidote. Keep that in your head and you’ll keep it.” Then he would lead Nnondo back to the party smiling broadly. However, if Nnondo squares up to him and says; “If my head is yours to take, you can have it.” He would severe it. Kintu had killed like that before.

Another decision taken and Kintu felt lighter on his feet. He realised then with relief that the premonition that had afflicted him so dramatically earlier had come to pass. He was glad his instincts were still sharp but in a way, he was disappointed. Kintu felt like a cat who had unlocked seven of its nine sheaves of energy to give a worthy chase only to catch the quarry in one leap. From the intensity of the alert, Kintu had expected, at least, a pack of nursing lionesses, at worst Kyabaggu suspicious that he concealed an ambitious prince among his Bambowa. Here he was, stuck with adrenaline high enough to take on mutiny among his men focused on a petty man with an unfortunate tongue. Kintu almost expected his muscles to twitch in spasms, to discharge the excessive energy. It was a dangerous energy when left unused in the body; it prompted irrational acts. But Kintu was walking; the journey would take care of it. Once again, his mind turned to his men’s conversation.

“Do you know what Ssanyu told my daughter — that Gitta is a stupid man — that she keeps a knife under her bed in case he gets stupid with her.”

“Gitta had struck her off his wives’ cooking rota. Either she forgot to cook when her turn came or she cooked food for aliens.”

“So he decided to beat womanhood into her?”

“I still can’t make it out; how did Gitta get his head stuck like that?”

“Apparently...” The narrator’s voice fell “…this time Gitta made up his mind to get his money’s worth. Ssanyu was to be tamed. When he got to her quarters, Ssanyu started her usual games, but this time Gitta would have none of it, he had a cane. Apparently, he gave Ssanyu a few whacks, you know, to let her know he was serious. And indeed, I heard, she stopped fighting and cried. Gitta made his move, but Ssanyu instead of submitting, went wild. She grabbed Gitta, you know how huge she is now, and swung him at the wall like a doll and ran. Gitta, thinking he was still the bull he once was, gave chase. Ssanyu ran into the shrubbery, Gitta after her. Unfortunately, Gitta ran into an acacia shrub. Somehow, the stems locked around his neck. When he tried to pull his head out, they tightened. He panicked and roared.”

“That wail man, like something was devouring him.”

“If you didn’t get to the scene before he was dislodged count yourself lucky. But there I was with a man old enough to be my father, his neck trapped between branches like sheep. I put laughter on hold and got working. But it was not easy; the women kept asking; “Why was he chasing her at this time of the night; as if they didn’t know. Gitta was a sorry sight. All he said was, “hurry, help me, help me, hurry.” I looked long at Gitta, grey all over, his voice shaking with age, still chasing youthful sex when his grandsons have started lying with women. I thought; surely there must be a point when a man can say enough is enough.”

“Poor Gitta, a bull to the last breath.”

“That’s it; he didn’t want it to be said that he married a woman and failed.”

“My wife woke me up and said; your friend nearly died. I asked, which friend, she said, the aged bull that grazes among calves. I shut her up and went back to sleep.”

“What will happen to Ssanyu now?”

This question dealt the gossip the fatal blow. It was met by awkward silence. Ssanyu was now part of Kintu’s household but the facts were not clear, hence, none of the men could speculate. The prolonged silence and the absence of Kintu’s bland smile alerted the men that they had gone too far. They fell silent.

Actually, when Kintu was alerted that Ssanyu was fugitive in his garden, he dissuaded Gitta from returning her to her parents. He argued that Ssanyu still needed the firm but gentle handling of a woman and asked him to give her some time. Taking Ssanyu back to her parents would not help, as they would only hit her in frustration, which at that age would only harden her. Ssanyu was handed to Nakato to groom and Gitta was asked not to visit her for a while. Then Kintu told his teenage sons that Ssanyu was to be treated like a sister and accorded the respect of a married woman. As for the latter, Kintu was worried; Ssanyu had neither the demeanour nor the etiquette of a married woman about her. Kintu’s sons laughed at the warning; who wanted Gitta’s pugilistic bride, one who took stretching strides like a hunter, one who did not flinch at slaughtering a goat, whose feet grasped the earth like a man’s?

Kintu felt for Gitta; he knew too well the snare of being a man. Society heaped such high expectations and pressures on manhood that in bid to live up to them, some men snapped. In Kintu’s case, being a man who was also a chief meant total denial of the self. At least, Kintu thought with some satisfaction, he knew who he was and knew his limitations as a man. The tragedy of masculinity as he saw it was that most men were what they were not and they did not even realise it..

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