By Thomas Kagera
On 27 March 2020 at 07:59

Dear Kamanzi,

I can’t start this letter with pleasantries of asking whether or not you are doing well. You are not. I am not. Nobody is. I will not even bother asking you ‘how is Kigali’, for I know how it is. Shut down. Desolate. Like many other cities around the world. This coronavirus has overthrown our lifestyles with astonishing speed and intensity. It has even twisted the way we greet or not greet.

The unpredictable consequences have, especially, put entire lives in a quagmire.
And what pains most is that this pathogen is now biting deep and bitterly because there was a ‘public health cover-up’ when it first showed up in Wuhan, China, December last year.

Can you imagine that local authorities in Wuhan kept information on coronavirus under tabs for fear that putting information out there would hurt the economy and social stability? Do you know it is that prolonged period of inaction that gave latency for the virus to make inroads. Don’t you think if there was no denial and information crackdown right from the start the situation would have been different.

To worsen the situation, politicians in Wuhan incessantly claimed that human-to-human transmission was not possible. That was the bomb.

Anyway, no amount of finger-pointing toward China about its lack of transparency early in the outbreak, or the time lost before Beijing finally alerted others about the nature of its epidemic—although both true—can change this harsh reality.

Here we are. In a lockdown. Our jobs have stalled, social transactions maimed and the core of our livelihoods threatened.

My friend Kamanzi, I am writing this letter from the dungeon of my home, trying to look at many blank pages of the bleak future. What if…just imagining, what if this virus persists for a year? What becomes of production? What becomes of services? What becomes of global incomes? What becomes of governments? What becomes of social order? What becomes of families? What becomes of friends? And what becomes of life?

Well, worries do not change a damn thing. So, before we get to that unknown, unpredictable future, I have decided to go frugal with all my expenses. In the opposite direction, I have gone extravagant with my love for all people in my life and mankind.
And, listen my friend, I beseech you too, to cut down on your expenses and extravagantly splash love to people in your life. Today I only spend on food and very little on fuel. I do walk, if the need is so critical, any distance in the range of 5km. I’ve cut my weekly data costs by 80 percent. And after mailing this letter, I will switch off data connection until late hours of the night when I will browse through the current affairs for about twenty minutes.

I am saving money from the left pocket to the right pocket; preparing for very hard times ahead. Being thrifty, observing minimum spending and being prudent in such times like this is not an option; it’s a must-practice.
We are faced with a cataclysm like one never before.

But we should not use this time for elegiac lamentation. Instead, we should do something useful in our lockdowns. Besides sparing time on my very blank schedule to write a letter of encouragement to you, I am now transforming my city-based home compound; transiting from flower to vegetable and fruits gardens. I was able to secure seedlings that I have already planted and nurturing.

Do you remember ‘AKarima k’igikoni’? I have established four of them in my small compound, fertilizing them with chicken dung. Watering them in the morning and evening. They are my new job; something to look to for accomplishment and gain satisfaction.

In the afternoons, I read vernacular novels to my children; all in the age-bracket of secondary school and university. They never got a chance to read those books by themselves. I find it interesting. They find joy in listening to my measured voice. Sometimes poetic. And they enjoy my mastery of the mother language. I count something good in these hard times.

Alright my dear Kamanzi, I have to let you do other things. I hope to hear from you soonest. I pray we get out of this, stronger and wiser. Cheers and carry on.

Truly, Thomas Kagera