Zarinah Tlale is her Facebook name, Zaitun Kiriggwajjo her maiden name or so they say. Some say she has Senegalese blood and is therefore Cisse Dangote. Others say she is Zari Hassan, or Hussein. At the Frying Pun, we shall choose to know her just as Zari, a name good enough to pass for a suave label on the lapels of suited penguins. We meet Zari, currently dating or is it married to Tanzanian Nasibu Abdul Juma, popularly known by his stage name Diamond Platnumz, in a health club. She is gleaming with sweat and smiling like a nun seeing a naked man for the very first time. An infectious smile, it is.
“Let’s have a seat. You’ve won this tête-à-tête because of your relentless push for an interview,” she says.
Relentless is the right word considering how I chased you around Kigali during the New Year events. It was easier to stars in the sky during the day than get you down to an interview, I said.
“Not really, just that when I am with Diamond, I feel like a butterfly surrounded by lovely flowers. It’s hard to think about anything else,” she says as she dubs bids of sweat from her temple with a towel. Looking at Zari, it is hard to imagine she is a mother of four, and like The Kampala Sun once wrote, a woman well into the four decade mark of life on earth.
She dubs her tummy and tickles the navel, instantly alerting me to the fact that she is expecting her fifth child. Do you do all this regular workout to stay forever young, or what? I ask.
“Dude, I’m a health-conscious person. I need to maintain my wellness and fitness. Aging is something you have to live to nature. The only way you can cheat aging is through those things, plastic surgery, but even then, nature would eventually catch up with you in tougher ways, she says. “Naturally, my body will surrender to nature when the time comes.”
I begin to feel like I am beating about the bush too much. At this rate, Chris Atukwasize, the Daily Monitor cartoonist, will accuse of going to Fry Zari only to end up with my ladle hitting misses as my mind wanders into admiring the Busoga creature. Now, how do I dip Zari into the pun and turn-turn her with the perfection of a Musoga chapatti maker turning his stuff on Iganga Road in Jinja town?
“Why would you leave the Sangoma for the Bongo Flava singer?” I ask. Zari looks at me as though I had not asked this question. Then, after checking her watch, she says glumly: “I didn’t leave Ivan, Diamond came to me, and if you are going to choose an Ivan instead of a Diamond, then you are a loser kabisa.” I could not help noticing the disdain in her tone.
“Talking of the noun ‘loser’ and its sound-alike verb, is Zari loose or a professional go-getter?” I had expected this to hurt. The words had left the pun so it was time to assess things. Zari sits motionless, staring at me like I had asked to prove she was pregnant. I was about to change the topic when she decided to respond.
“Zarinah is Zarinah, she is neither loose nor a go-getter. She is just that, Zarinah, a fine woman living her life and loving it. I was born to live and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” she says. “I have one chance at life, and I have to exhaust it. The choice of how to live is down to what you really want in life. No one is in charge of your happiness but you. Zarinah wants nothing but a fulfilling life, a life of happiness.”
So what is your definition of a fulfilling life? Jumping from one man to another and doing those things you did in public in total disregard to the fact that you have children who look up to you? And… she could not allow me to go on.
“First, leave my children out of this. They are very adorable to me, they are my life, they make Zarinah complete. If I made a mistake and they did not approve of it, I will apologise… to them, not to the society, not to you nosy journalists. Now, about what people might say, well, they can say or think whatever they want about Zarinah, but Zarinah defines herself. You see, when you know and love who you are, none of that sh*t matters.”
“Well, Zari, did you return the Sengoma’s cows?”
“The ones he gave during the kwanjula. I understand a Fuso truck delivered cows…”
“He never gave me any cows. If he gave cows for my hand, then he got the children. Those cows would belong to the children,” Zari says. “By the way, why don’t we talk about Diamond more than this nonsense you are into? I thought you were better than the typical journalists that dot Kampala and Facebook.”
Okay, how long are you going to last with Diamond? I ask.
Zari chuckles and picks her phone to check a message. With her head down, she says: “I have tolerated you long enough, a testimony that I have a heart for nonsense. Yes, I use nonsense to build my life. You know, a great queen got to use the stones thrown at her to build her palace and that is what Zarinah has been doing all these years.”
“Then let me throw one last stone at you for another foundation for your new palace if you please,” I say. “After a diamond, will you lure a gold next?”
For answer, Zari dubs her tummy again. She winks and picks her bottle of mineral water to take a sip. As she gets up from the couch, I realise that was it for the day.