How Shamlal’s Vehicle Repair Skills Saved Him From Amin’s Expulsion – Monitor | CarTailz

“As a young child, I knew something was wrong. The mildly garish turned to the gruesome as the daily reports of cannibalism, rape and murder were dissected by adults in hushed tones. The problems didn’t come overnight. The great shame is that the Asian community has not responded. We didn’t see the injustice in having a battalion of African servants on call, like Maharajas [princes or kings]because we lived in a land that wasn’t really ours,” writes Farah Damji, editor of British-Asian lifestyle magazine Indobrit, in the Guardian.

Damji was four years old in 1972 when Idi Amin expelled the Asians.

“I was lifted from the lilac shade of my jacaranda tree and the shoelessness of a mini Mowgli and dropped into the drizzle of an English winter like many of my young friends. I was quietly removed from my African childhood, the boundary of which was marked with a barbed wire fence and an armed askari (guard) at the gate, and taken to a rented terraced house in Ealing. I didn’t feel like I belonged.”

Unlike Damji’s family, who were expelled, Bachu Shamlal was asked to stay as his vehicle repair skills endeared him to Amin’s soldiers.

“Repairing the vehicles of the government soldiers of the time saved me and my family from being deported from Uganda because these people loved my expertise,” reveals Mr. Bachu.

Now, in the twilight of his life at the age of 80, Bachu strolls along Mutabuka Road, where he resides, for a breath of fresh air in the idyllic surroundings of Kabale Town.

He is one of the nine children of Mr Keshavdas Laxman, an Indian national who owned Rajbut Motor Services, which provided damaged vehicle repair services in the Kigezi and Ankole sub-regions.

60 years later, Bachu’s penchant for hard work has perpetuated the family legacy.

Today the auto repair shop he inherited from his father operates on Garage Street in Kabale where he repairs motor vehicles. He employs around 15 mechanics, some of whom he has specially trained to help him with the job.

At least 10 vehicles are repaired every day as Bachu ensures that all vehicles are repaired in a timely manner to meet the needs of its loyal customers.

“Every morning at 7 a.m., the Bachu workshop opens and repairs to the vehicles begin immediately. We have maintained time management to help us attract and retain customers. Bachu workshop employs armed guards to guard customers’ vehicles during night hours,” reveals Mr. Bachu during the interview.

Ugandan Army soldiers demonstrate their skills in the 1970s. Bachu’s friendship with soldiers helped his family members survive the expulsion. PHOTO/FILE

He owns a commercial building in the green area of ​​Mutambuka Road in Kabale Town.
“I was born in Kabale Town in 1942 and my father owned a house on Bwankosa Road. While my father was from India, my mother was from Rwanda. I grew up in Kabale Town with my siblings, although I’m the only one who survives.”

He says after completing third grade school at Indian Primary School in Kabale Town he entered Kigezi High School where he completed sixth form before joining his father in 1957 at Rajbut Motor Services garage where he learned general repairs of motor vehicles. specializing in engine repairs.

“I quickly mastered the skills in this specialized automotive repair to the point where I opened my own shop where government officials could bring the vehicles in for repair because I was disciplined and trustworthy. That’s how I became a mechanic for army vehicles,” says Mr. Bachu.

The favorite of the soldiers
He recalls that shortly after Idi Amin came to power in 1971, most government soldiers would come to his garage in Kabale Town to have their vehicles repaired, endearing him to soldiers feared for their brutality.

“When President Idi Amin announced the expulsion of the Asians in 1972 and gave them a 90-day ultimatum, his soldiers, with whom I repaired vehicles, promised me protection because they wanted my services.

That’s how my family members and I survived the expulsion,” says Mr. Bachu.

Scarcely after the expulsion of the Asians was announced, fear gripped the cabal and other parts of the country.

According to Bachu, soldiers raided Asian homesteads and tortured families, robbing them of personal property and goods in shops.

“I never settled until the Amin government was gone. I always thought they would change their minds and evict my family like they have done others. I am grateful to the NRM government for giving us all the property that the Amin government took from us,” says Mr. Bachu with a palpable sigh of relief.

Mr. Bachu is married to a Ugandan woman with whom he has six children and is still a well-known mechanic in Kabale Town. He has clients traveling from far away areas like Rwanda and DR Congo.

“When President Museveni took office in 1986 I was identified as a senior mechanic who had the expertise needed to repair the army vehicles and even in the Rwandan civil war of 1990-1994 I repaired the United Nations vehicles used in the US were deployed surveillance of the war. That was simply due to my expertise,” reveals Mr. Bachu.

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