For the past one year or so, I saw the late DJ Alex Ndawula everyday. He moved into the apartment opposite my studio and spent quite a lot of time on his balcony with his hands on the rails. He was always looking down into the studio’s front yard from his vantage point on the second floor of those apartments. Sometimes a visiting acquaintance would notice him and ask “is that DJ Alex Ndawula?” I’d reply in the affirmative and then spend the next few minutes trying to dodge their questions.
When he first moved in, he could barely walk and had to be held by a young male helper who was always by his side as he went for his evening walks. In time, you could see improvement in his steps…but they were still uncoordinated, slowed and reminiscent of a baby’s first steps.
I never knew him in person, so I respected boundaries and most of the time just met his empty gaze and darted my eyes towards something else. But he was always there, religiously.
He rarely had visitors and if he did, I’d notice because even from where I sit, I could easily see what’s going on on the opposite side of the road through the window. One day while on his walk, just by the fence to my studio, he bumped into a lady who was very excited to see him. He uncomfortably drawled through the conversation with her. It seemed that they had been part of the same “hanging out” crew back in the day. She kept on insisting that “oh, you should call “So-and-so.” But he kept on making up excuses as to why he hadn’t yet called “So and so.” What was clear was that “So-and-so” must have been his boy, but he was uncomfortable with contacting him now.
He never had friends visiting him in his last days. At least not the famous one’s who have been penning down dotting eulogies for him. He never had people visiting him. It was just him, the occasional evening walks, the helpful boy by his side and the view from his balcony.
This tale speaks a lot about the “fair-weather” nature of friendships in Kampala’s celebrity scene and popular circles. As I was writing this, I thought about a guy I once hosted for two months at my place. He was a party animal who had lost his job…and ultimately, his friends. I remember telling him “you know I am not your friend, we are just acquaintances. We don’t party together and we have nothing in common; where are all those friends of yours you used to go on road trips with? Shouldn’t they be the one’s helping you right now? He never answered back.
On the day DJ Alex Ndawula passed away, I just happened to be by the ledge as the young boy who was always by his side got dropped by a boda barely five metres from where I was perched. He greeted me.
“I heard the news. My sincere condolences to you and your family,” I said. “May his soul Rest in Peace.”
He said “thank you,” crossed the street and disappeared into the darkness that patronised the ground floor of the apartment block…where DJ Alex Ndawula spent many of his last moments staring out vacantly at a world limited to the view of passing cars, boda bodas, a few pedestrians and a little studio. He left a legacy behind.
You’ll only have friends when you have something. Once you are down, you are on your own.😭😭😥😢