Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Do You Talk To Your Level?

According to the financial bible – Forbes Magazine that is, Sudhir Ruparelia is worth $1.2billion and rakes in $600m a year from his rental properties.

My net worth is laughable so I was rather miffed when he invited me to a ‘celebration and networking party’ a few weeks ago. Now what kind of conversation was I expected to have with him?

I thought about it before I turned up at Kabira Club and I was determined to let him direct the flow of the conversation. Once the niceties of: “Good evening Mr. Ruparelia” where out of the way, it suddenly dawned on us that there might be ‘conversation issues’. This was my planned conversation.

Should I ask him if he has physically seen the $1.2billion? If he has, how long did it take the bank teller to count the money? Did the money counting machine burn out under the strain of $1.2billion? And is it a clear cut figure of $1.2billion or is it really more like $1.2billion and 40 or 60 cents?

This is what the common man wants to know and wants to ask him, but he is probably thinking about the bigger picture like moving say $1million into treasury bonds – whatever they may be.

I didn’t get to ask those questions but instead congratulated him on his success and scoured the room looking for my level.

I ended up with the very polished Aliker’s – Martin and Camille. Martin is a distinguished man, a man of principle and a man reeking in a wealth of wisdom and has sat as a chairman on most company boards in Uganda. And he is wealthy too, despite not having his name in Forbes.

So what should I jazz about with him? Aliker is witty and has a sharp sense of humour. I realized that I had to keep up with him otherwise whatever he was telling me was bound to skirt over my head. And when it comes to wine, if you don’t know a thing about wine (I don’t) but you are trying to impress him because he too is drinking wine, DON’T! He will strip you bare and make you look as stupid as that man in the red shirt in Namuwongo who thinks Dr. Ian Clarke introduced Irish potatoes to Uganda simply because he (Clarke) is Irish.

At another party, there was Gordon Wavamunno.  Like any other millionaire, you can’t pull the wool over his eyes. He is street savvy, and has been there and done it. Talking with him, we talked about cars – not Toyota or Mitsubishi but Mercedes Benz of course. And his book collection. And his antique furniture. Gordon is an avid reader and his head is filled with facts and if you thought that being a graduate would impress him, it won’t. He will blank you like he blanked Chap who bragged about how he went to university in Scotland and now wants a job in Spear Motors.

Behind us was Emmanuel Katongole, of Quality Chemicals and Vero Water. Emmanuel is a man who studies the scene. When I got into a conversation with him, it was on an international level. He talked about dinners and meetings with the Prime Minister – not our Amama Mbabazi but the likes of Rajib Razak of Malasyia and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore. Hmm, what was I supposed to say to that but shut up?

Then Waiter, who is an aspiring artiste, comes up to me and starts talking about music. As he continues with his rounds he gives me a CD to pass on to Mwoze and Weasel. Are Waiter, Mwoze and Weasel my level? I think I have to re-market myself – don’t you think?