Christine Atim with the copy of Shakespeare’s Othello
I know, it sounds like the title of some fancy book that has just won an award. The likes of ‘The Girl with a dragon tattoo’, ‘Half of a yellow sun’, ‘The God of small things’, ‘Children of a lesser God’, and other such grandiose sounding titles. But this is a simple story of a security guard that declared she wanted to read a book written by one of the greatest writers in the English language.
It so happened that someone returned books they had borrowed from me, so I stashed them in my laptop bag. Leaving the New Vision offices that evening, this lady policewoman guard was checking my bag and noticed the books. She asked me what I do with all those books, and I answered that of course, I read them.
Then she said there is a book she wants to read but can’t find it; I asked her what book it was (fully expecting her to name one of those dime novels bored people like reading). She answered “… Othello”. Not sure if I had heard her properly, I asked her whether the one written by William Shakespeare? And she answered in the affirmative.
Still in some shock (a security guard looking to read Shakespeare?), I left. It was late and I was tired so I didn’t even look at her name tag. When I got home and settled in, I started thinking how I could make her dream come true. I shared the experience on social media, and was overwhelmed by the positive reaction received.
Social media is generally seen as a place where folks waste a lot of time gossiping and writing about trivial things in generally bad English. But my friends really came through on this one, and gave suggestions as to where I can get the book; one even offered to send a copy from the USA (one castigated me for being condescending in assuming a security guard would not enjoy Shakespeare. Guilty as charged, Rita).
I finally got the book (another friend had it delivered at the New Vision offices) and presented it to Police woman Christine Atim. She was very excited to receive it, and immediately opened the pages to the character list.
“Are all the character there?” she asked. Of course, I answered, and asked her what her favourite character was. “Iago,” she replied with a big smile. But he’s the bad guy, I said. “I know,” she replied. “I like the way he twists all the others around his little finger.”
Unfortunately, Atim declined to be interviewed any further, so we may never know where her love for Shakespeare came from. Or why she especially liked the play, Othello, apart from her fascination with bad guys.
But the overwhelming response I got, and the number of people that offered to contribute in making Atim’s dream come true, shows there are a lot of very good people in this country. Uganda is not only about self-serving politicians and corrupt officials stealing our money and our land. There are many good people, and for that, I thank you all.
Mixed amidst all the offers to help, were also requests for different books that some of my friends wanted to read. There have always been complaints that Ugandans do not read enough, and justifiably so. But this shows that there really is some hope for this country.
I buy at least two books every month, and have shared them with some friends. But maybe I should look to starting a kind of reading club, where folks that want to read books can access them easily and readily. After all, books sitting on my shelves are really wasted if no one else reads them.
I will end with a quote from the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln (my father had a whole library on this great man, and I grew up reading his written works):
‘My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read’