Writing about rolex in Uganda is no light issue. I think it would be like writing about noodles in Asia or Pizza in Italy. It has become a cultural staple. The participants on The amazing race can tell you that.
The rolex is like that revolution that came slowly; creeping and conquering one area after another, from the smallest markets all the way to high end-ish restaurants and into corporate Kampala. The trick? Keeping true to the formula.
Some have tried to jazz it up and change it- that is the beauty of food, right? That you can experiment with the recipe? Not with this one. No one has managed to switch up the rolex that it makes sense to me. It’s either eggs, vegetables and chapati or nothing else. A rolex is best eaten as fresh as possible. Do not order/send for it if you have a choice. Fetch it and eat it right there next to the sigiri.
So how do you talk about something so well-known and integral to the very life of some? (I saw that one of the rolex men recently brought his young sons to assist him. I have seen him earning from that stall for some 15 years now.) Maybe you don’t talk about it. Maybe you talk about the person making the rolex. It’s easy to forget to say hello to him, what with the texting and chatting with your friends. But if you have been doing this, shame on you and stop it.
I always order from this one guy. His stall is the one at the Ntinda/Naalya Taxi stage; right before the Total petrol station. He is the first, not the second one. A faded banner that reads Mulokole (translated to Christian) marks the spot. This is rare. Most rolex stands magically appear at dusk and with the same mystery, disappear at the crack of dawn. So this move to stake his claim on that corner was serious. I congratulated him on it and he said, “Yes, business has to look professional”.
I like him because you must assume that food cooked in this way- at the roadside, unwashed tools, with a slight garnishing of dust, the rolex rolled by hand- will make you sick and yet I have not been sick once having eaten there countless times.
I once went to a place where there was one guy to beat your egg, one to add the veggies, one to fry and one simply to roll it. Avoid those rolexers. That one’s job should be to roll the chapatti round the egg is a bit of a testament to the sad sad levels of unemployment.
Anyway, I ran right back to my regular guy and have stayed put since. So when there was a new man behind his sigiri, I noticed.
When my friend and I asked him where he had put the Mulokole, he said he had gone to the village to see his parents. Another rare thing. Do people on the hustle ever take a break? It occurred to me that I didn’t know anything really about my rolexer. This new one mounted a conversation. It went a bit like;
“Yes, rest is important. 2 eggs?”
I answered in the affirmative.
“You know the parents need to see you.”
“It’s true, onions, green pepper and tomatoes. Kaamulali (chilli) if you have”, I said.
“No cabbage. But thank you for supporting him even if he isn’t here. Some people never go home.”
“Is the egg dry enough? When he comes back, I also plan to go and see parents.” And so on and so forth until the rolex was wrapped and I was good to go. This whole interaction lasted all of 5 minutes but in that time, I actually saw my rolexer. It was an intensely enjoyable moment of human connection.
Point is; say hello to the person who makes your rolex; a real hello. You might learn that even a man whose business will quite literally stop if he isn’t there ALL the time can find it in his schedule to pause. I guess the other point is; Take a break. And the other point is, eat a rolex!