|Image from: yearofthedurian.com|
The Letter from NTU Students
"I read your post on 5 places you can still find durian trees in Singapore and you mentioned your memories of seeing durian trees along different places. I am wondering if you would be interested to share more about your experiences with durians when you were growing up in the 60s and 70s?
Me and my friends are year 4 students at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and we're working on our final year project on the topic of durians. It's a campaign aimed at getting youths to appreciate durians, not just for the fruit and taste but also the history, the sellers, people who work to create durian flavoured products or crafts.
In one of our phases, we want to do a video series on stories of durians back in the 60s, 70s and 80s and also on durian picking in Singapore (Wee Kim Wee School of Communications in a letter to Lam Chun See of Good Morning Yesterday from whom I received a copy)."
|C.W. Kee's Durian Cartoon (C)|
I never like durians and whenever members of my family bring home durians to consume I will always ask them to take the path to the kitchen using the side garden of our residential home and never through the living room. Feasting must only take place in the kitchen with windows wide open and fans full blast. That is how much I dislike durians and even up till today, the same rules apply.
The Mersing Trip
It was the mid-70s and the chase began when a group of friends wanted to buy durians from Mersing in Malaya. I only agreed because it was my first time going and I had hopes of passing by the little water-fall and take a peek at Pulau Tioman a holiday place which was just across the waters from Mersing.
It wasn't too long a trip and four of us cramped into my tiny jalopy, a Datsun 1000 (used, 3-year old @ $4,000). Since the car was a four-door affair the ride was pretty comfortable. We were all skinny young 'uns and ready for an adventure.
Love Will Keep Us Together
On the way across the three musketeers sang, Love Will Keep Us Together, a big hit those years and sung by Captain and Tennille. It was quite obvious what the durian chasers were referring to:
"Be there to share forever
Love will keep us together
Said it before and I'll say it again
While others pretend
I"ll need you now and I'll need you then..."
Southern Tip of Malayan Peninsula showing Mersing and Tioman
The Causeway was not difficult to cross. Traffic wasn't too heavy then. I cannot remember if we had to pay charges for crossing over but the immigration officers from both sides let us through without fuss.
When we reached Mersing there was this open field with lots of durians and their keepers. And there was a huge crowd, all running around hurrying and trying, buying and eating durians a plenty.
My three friends scuttled out of the car before I even jammed the brakes. I was just as ignorant then as I am today and cannot remember where this area was, but it wasn't too far from the waterfall. I left my friends as the stench was unbearable and hurried to the waterfall alone.
Brimming The Boot
When I came back two hours later I saw the three of them waving to me excitedly. But I wasn't as enthusiastic when I saw a basketful of the horrible fruit at their side. They decided, without my permission, to buy as many of the green spiked balls as they could for their dinner date at home.
I disagreed and refused to transfer the fruit into my car but after some plea bargaining I agreed with much frustration. They filled the boot to the brim. The cover just managed to shut.
Fruit of the Season
I was grumbling all the way, what with the hot humid weather and the smell, I was ready to burst. It was like a journey to hell and when we reached the causeway I thought my trouble was over but it was only the beginning of more problems. The immigration officer eyed us sharply but was polite.
"Do you have anything to declare?" he asked with a sincere demeanor on his face.
"Nothing sir," I declared, since I was driving.
"Nothing? You mean nothing at all? Not even fruits of the season?" Then he added, "I can smell them you know."
"Yes, we have a few durians in the boot," I replied.
I felt the perspiration down my spine. The way he looked at me it was as if I was smuggling drugs into Singapore.
"Aha." he remarked with glee, "can you please open the boot." And when he saw the heap he shouted, "So many ah... And you say a few only!"
You Tube: Captain n Tennille, Love Will Keep Us Together by Desperado0001
The Tax Charges
So the rule was short and simple, "I have to charge tax. If you want a receipt you must pay $15 for the durians. If you don't need a receipt, just pay $5."
It was quite obvious. The officer took me to his little hut, pulled out a huge *Blue OMO box from under the counter and signalled me to put the five dollar note into it. I looked inside. Full of 5 and 10 dollar bills.
"Lucky ah... we paid only 5 dollars!!!" my friends remarked as we hurried home.
"I paid!" I retorted.
And, by the way, neither love nor durians have kept us together. We went our separate ways and on the trip I never even visited Pulau Tioman.
Durian, King of Fruit? Bah!
*Blue OMO is a detergent, well-advertised on TV and a household name those years.
Song: Love Will Keep Us Together by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. A Captain and Tennille international hit in 1975.
Cartoons: C.W. Kee's Comic Strips (Malaysia).
There is no intention to discredit anyone in this posting. It is a true story and the situation was different in the 60s and 70s. It has changed much today.
|C.W. Kee's Durian Cartoon (C)|