Pushing the Gate

Diary of a Gateman, Early 2023

Collins Adiga

Our conversation with Collins Adiga began at the end of 2022 amid the frenetic energy associated with the festive season, when it was clear in his eyes that for him everything was up in the air even as others around him stocked up on the nice stuff. He looks after a rental property in the gated community of Nsawo in the Namugongo area of Wakiso. There, in a small outhouse beside a storied apartment block painted a bright cinnamon, he lives with his childhood sweetheart Beatrice, whom he sometimes describes as his fiancée while practically she is his wife. They are an interesting couple who effectively do the job together, so that when one is absent the other is likely to be present.

But what exactly is Adiga’s job? He is not a houseboy. And neither is he an askari. He too couldn’t pin down his job title when we sought his opinion. But when it was mentioned to him that he might be reliably called a “a gateman,” his eyes lit up because, obviously, his job has much to do with opening the gate for cars to get in or get out and then sliding it back shut. The neologism was strange, but it applied aptly to his circumstances and perhaps those of hundreds of others paid to do similar work. They occupy an important place in the ecosystems of where they live, and without them things can come to a standstill. It’s not unusual to hear the tenants of Adiga’s place calling for him when he is away but someone probably needs him to run a quick errand to the grocery.

Collin? Collin? Where is Collin?

And yet he can go hungry when others have plenty of food, can indeed suffer such grievous lack of money that could make a man hate himself. His diary shows him grappling with poverty stemming in part from the delayed payment of his monthly wages. It also depicts his struggle with staying loyal to his “Betrace” while at the same time nursing feelings for the woman back home in Arua whom his relatives have found for him. Why his parents are interfering it’s not clear, but one suspects it’s because they want to see the grandchild that Adiga’s union with Beatrice is yet to produce. Adiga, his parents’ only son, is on the verge of polygamy, an exciting yet terrible proposition for a man so young and often so indigent.

Adiga, who was born in 1998, finished secondary school. Because he knows it’s not enough, recently he’s been studying for a certificate in “electrical engineering,” the kind that might assure him work wiring up new houses or fixing broken lamps. He also is looking into starting a project to lay bricks in Arua. There is a firm dignity in his ambition – as well as a sense of hope – that is captured in his surrealistic scribblings, presented here in their unedited rawness. There’s a bitter, ironic clarity in his words, however incongruous or grammatically incorrect. This man is pushing ahead no matter what, proving yet again that out of the manure that life is for some young people strong plants can still emerge. This is Adiga’s diary between January and February 2023.  — TWR

pushing the gate 1
Collins Adiga pushing the gate at the property he looks after near Kampala; Edgar Raymond Batte for TWR

January 4

I got new work in Sonde. I went dere to meet the boss and also the site view. Then I gave the quotation to the boss and he also cleared me with the money of materials. I got them and reaching the site I found a lot of difficultie in cable laying where there are some conduit pipes which are blocked by the concrete. I struggle alone for a moment reaching to lunch time and I come out to get some helper to make work easier. After getting those two guys  before reaching to 4 pm the work we finishe. I realized something. Work can be easily done in group and I also feel change in work. The boss also appreciate.

January 5

The market day. The family of Adiga Betrace were having family discussion of going to the market were by reaching to the market to start the shopping we meet some of the village members there in Kyaliwajjala market. They surprise us how they arrived. Sometimes staying every day at home, you miss a lot of things. We went to do the other shoppings with them and it brought a lot of joy and happiness between us but later on we found we have use all the money we were having and lack transport for coming back home.

January 6

I woke up at 6 o’clock in the morning. I have the family router with my lovely madam Betrace. Since it is now my dutie I started organise my preparation of cleansing and other utensil. When the neighbours saw me they were laughing at me that am doing the work which woman are supposed to do. There I also learn a lesson in cooking pilao  and other kinds of sauces. I also request mens to do that. She appreciate what I did to the family.

January 7

Today I visited one of my OBs of Otravu Senior School in Kira. It brought my memorys back in school. He is also supprise to see me dea to see him. The family member were all happy to see me. It was great to walk down memory lane, but it also made me to realize how much I have grown since then. I am so greatiful for my life of education and all the opportunity of my school gave me.

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A page from Collins Adiga’s private diary

January 8

I started my day by woking up in morning by opening the gate. I went back to sleep and I woke back in half hour. After check out am happy to see the sunshine and the sky as blue as the sea. I rushed in the shelter and sower after dea I take my break from dea head to prayer. The prayer went well but coming back home I found difficult of food stuff, nothing to eat at home. God can’t forget his son, he made us a way in the evening of getting money. I realize when you are in need of some thing just through Christ he will make you the way.

January 9

I started the day by going to do a work in Nsonde were by I was called to do some wiring in apartmental house were by I reached dea and I didn’t find boss dea. I found house girl. Explaining all those things to a house girl it is a bit confusing. The boss was in a meeting, so I could not talk to him at that time. I waited him until when he is out I explain all things to him and he bought the materials and I did the work. The boss paid me and he appreciated my patience. I am urging friends they is nothing comes without your patience.

January 10

Opiko Oscar my friend who used to be my old girl. She called me that she want to meet me as personal. When she arrived where I decide where we are supposed to meet she greeted me with a hug and also give me a kiss. I was fearing of what she is doing. Later on it turned to a real love. She told me she want me. I told her am married. She told me she is dating me not my wife.

January 11

It was on Thursday when one of my tenants shifted from here to Nsasa. Since I am the guard here I was also told by land lord to check all the things in the house before she left. Were as later on we found the woman shifting because she was not paying the rents for four months. It has now accumulated.

January 12

Once a moment were I have fallen in love with a girl called Sarah were by it was a communication through phone without seeing each other. When it reach to time of meeting each other I found am dating a girl who is older than me which take my love away from her.  Were by am arguing it is not good to fall in love with some one you have never seen.

January 14

It was on Saturday evening when I went up there in Twiton joint. I found football is going on. I also started whatching were by in that same (place) there was a betting center. I also come out and trie my best three times nothing comes. Am arguing gambling is not something good and it also keep your mind busy.

January 15

It was on Sunday morning and when I was going for prayers and I received a call from one of my old girls in my former school, that she has been following me since in school. That she want me to be one of (her) friend. When my fiancee had about that she grew anoid and ask who is that, how can she tell you that I was being following you since? Later on I told her she will be a friend but not that one she is meaning. That at least brought a good mood to my fiancee.

January 17

One of my friend who was working as house girl called Avako Scovia in Kyaliwajjala she lost her mum, so by the time she tells to the boss, the boss is not sure of what she said. Boss was not paying her like three months, so the time when she asked the money from the boss, the boss started accusing her and slaps her that she wait for the end of the month moreover she lost her mother. The girl told the boss if non of my parent slap me, the girl also started fighting with her. In all those, the girl is right, if you worked at least the little money you have worked for let they pay in time.

January 19

It was yesterday since we got some misunderstanding between one of my tenant when he was not paying the rent for 4 months and I was told by my boss that I should switch off their power were by after our communication between each other he was not OK but yesterday he also need my help for cleaning there car just in a way of convincing me without knowing that I have love of God. Truthly if you have the faith of God you will pass through the hard situation.

January 21

It was on Saturday. One of our friends was put in prison called Jackson. Were by it was on Christmas season were by his bosses they went to the village and he was left in guarding dea. He was told that the thieves stole some things like screen etc in the house. However he was arrested and taken to police station from the investigation. It is true that the guard didn’t see anything, the boss went during day time without informing him and from dea they also release the friend of mine from police station.

January 29

The death of my grandmother Eyonzeru Cicilia. It was on 26 January 2023, it was so painful were by she used to narate the storys and the way of leaving were by before she died she fall sick. She was taken to Maracha hospital. Dea the condition was not OK. She was referred to Arua Hospital where she died. Were by following her word she was poisoned by a woman known as Agatta who was arrested for murder.

January 30

The entertainment. It was after funeral when entertainment was put on to clean the tears in her sons and daughters. Were by a man known as Abasiku was found stealing a goat at night were by he was killed by the family members of the deceased were by I was suggesting it was a mistake to kill the thief at least they would have punished him.

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Collins Adiga, gateman, photographed just outside Kampala. © Edgar Raymond Batte for TWR

February 1

It was on 1st Feb when we are giving but the bride price of madame Lilian were by there was a bit of entertainment in which I Adiga Collins I meet a girl dea just as a friend but later on it has become the real relationship until it has becomes to marriage. Were by coming back to Namugongo it brought misunderstanding between me and my first wife.

February 3

Today I visit one of the companie in Arua for appliances and repair work, were I was told to have money to join it like four hundred (thousand shillings), and yet I don’t want to spend a single moment idle and definitely want to enjoy at least the work but the condition in which they started? It is better for them to ask for electrical certificate or diploma. It has made the life of people so pity.

February 4

It was on Tuesday when I was reloading on another year. Birthday. I never expected my birthday would be a nice and wonderful occasion. I have thank my parent for the guidance which they have been giving me, and I have to thank God for the wonderful day he gave for the party.

February 7

It was on Tuesday in Alikua forest were a girl was found in the forest necked were by she doesn’t have energy to wake up. Taking her to Maracha hospital to test what happened to her she was found rapped by many people. They giving her treatment but in two days she got dead in Arua hospital.

February 8

I was called to do some work in Mr Agadribo house were by it was good on my side to have work. I employe some guys for digging the pit and they did it well and they bought the earth rode and the earthing wiring but after finishing the work the payment has become very hard. It has lead to misunderstanding between me and the boss were by the guys I employe they were also demanding me.

February 9

It was on the 9th when Kerren is leaving the village to travel to Kampala were by she was so happy for going to kampala city with the aim of also denying school just with purpose of the work of house girl without knowing that education is key to life. For me as the brother I was eurging of bringing her back to school but the parents denied. Since they are the ones paying her school fee I have nothing to aurge on it.

February 10

Project in brick laying, were by I have the plan since before I went for the funeral but since it is right time in dry season. It is on 10th when I organize group both mans and woman to start the project of mixing the water and soil to form the mad to get fine for a day. Then reaching to the day when they laid the brick, reaching to the evening it rained heavily and washed away the laid brick before it get dried.

February 12

It was on Sunday I woke up in the morning for preparing for church were we went for it with all the family member, including my parent. It is now around 9 am when people in the sub-county were arresting isolated goats, sheep, cows, pig were by some of our animals were arrested to get the money to hand over to the tax collector.

February 19

It was on 19th when I started my journey to leave the village and going back to town. We travelled with YY bus, reaching to Packwach the tire of the bus got bursted and yet we were travel in high speed. With our prayer we servive. Baby (bus) also assist us with a tire for us to continue with our journey.

February 20

I have been demanding boss for 3 months without the payment of the salary were by I called him and he was like the tenants were not paying rent which bring misunderstanding between me and the boss. At least treat workers  as you are treating yourself. We humans are all equal. Since I have keep on doing field work life goes on. Just praying for better.

February 22

It is today morning 22nd. I woked up in the morning, we had a breakfast with my lovely madam Betrace were by we had a discussion with my engineer of going for a work, were by after the breakfast the laziness has arise on my side were by without knowing God was saving me. He got a moto accident at Zia Angelina.

February 23

Ush Wednesday. It was on Wednesday when we started fasting to obey what we need from the lord Jesus Christ  by denying food to eat during day time to change the spiritual life in the family of Adiga and Betrace in the period of 40 days of fasting. Since the appitite of the food is dea, we have sacrificed our self.

February 28

It is today when one of my (tenants) whom we are not understanding our self. With him, were his power went off I was called by him to work on it. Before I did the work his wife started  appologizing in what she used to do  to me. I started repairing on there power system until it works, and I have also charged them though I have forgiven them. Sometimes due to survival there returning time will find me when I was not around and it brought misunderstanding between me and them cause they report me to my boss.

Cover image: Collins Adiga, gateman, photographed outside Kampala by Edgar Raymond Batte for TWR