The diary is bound in black faux leather. Golden printed letters specify the year. I found it in Almana Bookshop in Apac, the only place in this town where you can buy newspapers.
On the first pages of the diary, the publisher has listed the zodiacs, or sun signs. Aries, I learn, is the “Fiery First Sign”. Symbolised by the ram, it is ruled by the planet Mars and corresponds to the diamond birthstone, the Sweat Pea flower and the colours red and orange. Lucky numbers are seven and six and the lucky day is Tuesday. The Taurus, on the other hand, is the “Earthy Second Sign” and its birthstone, ruling planet, symbol, flower, colours, lucky numbers and day are also detailed. And so forth.
The next pages include a health guide, where I read about the calorie intake of ghee, musambi, chapatti, dal, masala dosa, biryani and curries, fried rice, carrot halwa, jalebi and rasgulla.
After sections on weights and measures, I reach an interesting list of Indian holidays with names so different from the Lwo sounds of Apac: Makar Sankranti, Muharram, Basant Panchmi, Maha Shivratri, Id-a-Milad. On the opposite page appears a political map of India. And then, maps of the seven most important cities of the subcontinent: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmadabad.
In a globalising world economy, these cities are becoming increasingly important for even the economically marginalised town of Apac. The presence of the 2008 Executive Diary itself is a case in point.
It has probably travelled from the industrial area of Hyderabad, where it was manufactured, to the ports of Mumbai where it was stacked in a container and was shipped across the Arabian Sea to the port of Mombasa in Kenya. From Kenya it transferred to a truck which took it west across Kenya, to Kampala in Uganda. A stationary wholesaler then received an order from Mr Victor Ochola, owner of Almana Bookshop, in Apac, 260 kilometres north of Kampala. The diary travelled north, crossing the Nile at the bridge over Karuma Falls, and was stocked on wooden shelves by Mr Ochola’s assistant until I came by.
India is becoming increasingly important for Uganda, likewise are China and the Middle East. The diary was clearly produced for a domestic market, and imported by a Ugandan wholesale company, perhaps Indian-owned. Mr Ochola found that its price suited the purchasing power of his customers in Apac. While the economic aspects of ‘Africa Going East’ are well documented, less studied are the transfer of cultural symbols such as the sun signs, holy days and the culinary items.
Looking out of the window at my office, I see grass-thatched huts. Looking in the diary at my desk I see the Hugli River and the places of Himatnagar and Hiriyur. English is the medium and Apac is in the world.