Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Durian: A Fruitless Pursuit.

Name the King of Fruit there is only one that comes to our mind – fruitcakes. Okay, I am kidding, the King of Fruit in Malaysia is definitely Durian.

Mention Durian, the mental picture that comes to my mind is a roadside makeshift stall, with Durian piled up from ground, often segregated into grades and with serious looking people smelling the spiky fruit and shaking it with intense look on the face no different than from nuclear scientist during a demo session.

These are connoisseurs who sneer at fans of apple, jeer fans of orange, and offer a very audible chuckle when you say you like Rambutan the best. These Durianites know which the better quality durian is by just staring at the damned thing as if they got X-ray vision. In short, they will kill me for that one thing that sets me apart from many Malaysians – I can’t eat durian.

In fact, I remember an ex-colleague of mine, Saravanan, giving me that strange look and proclaiming, “you don’t know what you are missing!” in the same tone one use when he tells his friends that the last boat from that marooned island has left. Well, apart from few tooth, I do know what I am missing.

The trouble is this: I can’t take the smell. Not that I keep using the work “can’t”, as opposed to “don’t”, or “won’t” or doodley-doo. It means, this is not a voluntary decision. I was forced to. In the words of Sivaji the Boss, “I was helpless, I was cornered”.

Why, well it all happened long time ago, when I was a kid when we had to walk to school for thirteen miles when there was no electricity when dad hunted woolly mammoth for lunch and when iPods were made of stone

That would roughly be about 18 years ago I would say. We were in the plantation, and it will irk some of you city folks out there (especially the rat maze township called USJ) that we used to get Durians for free! That’s right, and sacks of them.

In fact, there used to be a thing called Durian season. It was basically a season when the Durian tree decides, “alrighty, this f****** (they are rude apparently) fruit is getting heavy and I can’t take it any longer” and drops the spiky fruit right on top of a poor farmer’s head. Once the body is taken away, the fruit would be picked up for eating. Yeah, it’s the tree, not the materialistic, selfish, brutal, sadomasochistic mankind who invented nasal hair remover, who decides when the let the fruit go away.

That was then. These days, you can have durian anytime you want. It’s durian season all year long. Especially true in Singapore, as I found out during my five years stay in Singapore. I found out many other things I can share about that island, but I will have to kill you after that.

It’s also fascinating to know that the durian has been known and consumed in south-eastern Asia since prehistoric times or so says the wikipedia. It has known to the western world for about 600 years, about the time when the Dark ages started, I think. It further added that, “the earliest known European reference to the durian is the record of Niccolò Da Conti, who travelled to south-eastern Asia in the 15th century.” Along the report, he must have made this comment, “Holi Al Cappuccino! This shit stinks!”

Anyway, during one of those freebie durian periods, our house was teeming with relatives. Not sure why they were there, but I suspect the durian season must have something to do with it.

Well, I wanted an afternoon nap and found out that the rooms were all overtaken by some visiting uncles and aunties. It would have been lovely to drop the durian on them at that time, but except for torturing domestic lizards, I was anti-violence even then. And so, I ended up sleeping in the spare/store room where a sack of durian was kept. I slept for an hour.

When I woke up, I had fever and a terrible headache. Worst, the sticky smell of durian was in me, formed an aura outside of me, and made me a lot sicker. Till then, I was a regular Malaysian who loved durian, but the one hour spent breathing in and out the smell that is seen as foul by Westerners, had broken me. From then on, its smell troubled me. I would walk away, run away, like it is some sort of Kryptonite.

And so, it still haunts me to this day. Whenever there is Durian in my hometown or at my brother’s place when I am there visiting, I feel like a fruit pariah, not included in these special Durian eating session. Sometimes one of them would forget and offer me, and when I tell them the truth, they’d feel embarrassed, as if they’ve offered barbecued pork ribs to Buddhist monks.

And so I shall continue to move on in my life. What is life without Durian you say? Well, give me those damn barbecued pork ribs then.


ஜோ/Joe said...


dagalti said...

Ah ! What have I missed.

I saw these menacing warning of "No Pets. No Durian" all over KL.

As a passionate animal-hater I kept wondering how a fruit could
s(t)ink so low. I asked the Tamil cabbie why he had the sticker and he shot me a suspicious look. Thought he was going to frisk me. I had to assure him I was asking for general knowledge's sake.

He went on to elaborate on the despicability of the fruit. I am sure he was toying with the idea of asking me to walk to the hotel chewing on my imaginary Durian. Then I saw the hotel too had the 'no durian' sign !

Till date I don't know what I missed. Sigh !

Rakesh Kumar said...

Gah! You missed it. You got to try it at least once in a lifetime...its like knowing how a dog bite is.

Or ask Joe...poor guy was hijacked to Cambodia and made to eat Durian.

ஜோ/Joe said...

//ask Joe...poor guy was hijacked to Cambodia and made to eat Durian.//

ha ha.