I didn't realise how familiar I had gotten with Singapore and its ways until a friend from India came over and stayed with us for a few weeks. With that unquenchable curiosity and excitement that tourists bring, my friend enthusiastically joined us on our trolley-hurtling, toddler-dragging shopping affair at the local supermarket.
It was rather amusing to see his face morph into an interesting display of expressions - wonder, shock and disbelief. And that's when it struck me - Hell, there are a lot of strange things being sold here at the supermarkets.
One of our first stops is always the vegetables and fruits section. A welcome sight for sore eyes. All those juicy tomatoes and crunchy capsicums beckoning to you from the shelves. But as luck would have it, that day (of all days) they had a durian sale promotion offer. The durian fruits had been assembled in a row - ripe and ready to burst with flavour. The shoppers crowded there, examining the fruit and eagerly condemning their olfactory glands to hell and beyond.
My friend turned to me with an expression bordering on near dizziness and disgust.
"What is that smell?” he hissed, looking like an amateur ventriloquist trying not to allow the foul smelling air to enter his mouth or nose.
After regurgitating his breakfast all over the organic broccoli, we hurried him off to the laundry detergents and bleach aisle for some respite where we hoped the lingering smell of the lavender blossoms would revive him.
While he buried his nose somewhere in between the floor cleaners and the fabric softener refill packs, I tittered smugly and proceeded to explain what exactly 'that smell' was.
"It’s a durian - a fruit. Looks like a jackfruit and -" "
And smells as if you are being tortured for something", he added.
I chuckled a bit more. Now, now there is no need to overreact. A local delicacy it is. Yes, of course I mean it. Most of the locals crave for that 'torturing' fruit you see.
Now for the puzzled readers, let me enlighten you on the ‘Durian Effect’. A durian smells like an over-ripe jackfruit that has been thoughtfully hacked open and stuffed with cheese, a few maggots and ooooh...yes some fresh red meat and then left out in some tropical climate for a few weeks. You can throw in some stinky socks too. And the ensuing smell is what is referred to as the Durian Effect.
Move over apples, durians are the new forbidden fruit. The Serpent at the Garden of Eden should have just flicked a ripe durian at Adam and Eve instead of playing all those mind-games. Would have had them at his mercy in an instant, begging to stop that 'Goddawful smell' (excuse the pun).
But if you can get used to the smell, then the fruit is supposed to be delicious with its creamy flesh and custard like texture which has made it a favourite amongst locals. However, it is banned from buses and trains. For fear of sudden evacuations mid-journey no doubt. Durians are used for cakes, pastry, cream puffs and ice-cream. Quite the popular flavour in these parts.
I have finally progressed from the gagging stage to the nose-wrinkling stage, when confronted by a durian. But I am yet to cross the threshold to the next level - the putting-in-the-mouth-and-chewing stage.
One of these days, I shall do exactly that. Keeping a laundry clip to secure the nostrils shut of course. Safety measures against sudden unconsciousness.