I Am Called Tom. I Have Seen You, and I Have Liked You.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, you may be curling up with your sweetheart watching all the best love stories Hollywood has cooked up, but here’s one love story you haven’t heard. The story of the Love in the Wild host.

The year is 1969 and a 24 year old Tom Karemire was at an unfamiliar church on the mainland during one Sunday morning mass when he spotted a calm, beautiful girl seated across his row. Tom was with family who lived in the area, so he told one of his cousins about the girl he saw. Luckily, she just so happened to be friends with the girl Tom had spotted “just sitting there” and told him all about her.

Though Tom had four other girls to choose from, he wanted Provia, who was 22 at the time. He told his cousin that he wished to talk to the girl, so his cousin called her over. Then, when they sat down, he said, “I am called Tom. I have seen you, and I have liked you. I think you and me can do something together.” Provia seemed interested in Tom, and advised that he should meet her parents for their approval and dowry arrangements.

The  second time Tom met Provia, he proposed. As Provia wasn’t allowed to come live with Tom until everything was legalised, he went to meet her family and make arrangements for their daughter’s hand. They had initially requested five cows, but the groom-to-be and his elderly family were able to negotiate and gain their approval with the offering of two cows, one bull, and 900 Ugandan shillings; this was a fortune at the time.

Immediately afterwards, Provia moved in with Tom on his island, though not without conditions of her own. As Tom had just been appointed the warden of Murchison Bay Prison, he wasn’t around much. He was called to training and later he had to be posted to different prisons in different parts of the country. Provia made it clear that she would not be coming with him to his work. She stayed at home, planting, cultivating, and supporting their family while he was away. During his four off days every month he would bring some money for her and the family. Tom would also help her to cultivate their farm, which was a good way to spend the time together.

In the 48 years of their marriage, Tom and Provia have raised nine children together. Though at the time of their marriage it was popular for men to take multiple wives, he never strayed. “I didn’t want to marry more than one woman because of my willingness,” Tom said of his choice. He also didn’t want to take other wives because of the capacity it would take to provide land, money, food, and fatherhood to other families. If he had taken another woman, “I would be dead right now, ” said Tom.

Tom and his wife have never had the chance to celebrate Valentine’s day together. This Saturday when Love in the Wild debuts at Tom’s island, they will finally be given the opportunity to relax and commemorate their love. This is not the only special day they have in mind. “In 2019, if I am still alive,” Tom said, “We plan to have our 50 years anniversary by doing a big wedding celebration.”

Tom advises those who have not quite been as lucky with love as he has that, ”If you are in love with a girl, mean it. Don’t be a pretender.”

Whether you have been married for half a century like Tom or are just in the beginning of your love story, on 11 February 2017 his Habukomi Island is the place to be.

text and photo: Anika Utke

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