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Sunday, 27 May 2012

New durian stall in the northeast

Recently, the main durian stall somewhere in the north-east had closed shop, much to the chagrin of durian lovers in that neighbourhood. Apparently, the owner had suddenly disappeared one night. As a result, two durian stalls had set up shop there, attempting to take over the position as the main seller of durians there.

Being a durian lover, I went to check out the two durian stalls. When I arrived at the market, I saw that a lot of people were crowding within and outside both stalls. Noticing that one was slightly less crowded, I went there first.

"Hey, it's you!" a familiar voice called out to me. I turned around and -- lo! -- I saw my usual durian seller. With his hair gelled back and dressed in all-white, he cut a fine figure amidst the hustle and bustle. I could barely recognize him, but I assumed correctly that he was trying to make a good impression among the shoppers so that he could cement his position there.

"Come in, come in!" he said jovially, ushering me into his stall before I could utter anything. "Long time no see, hor!"

"Actually, I had just bought some durians from you last year," I pointed out.

"Aiyah, last year was last year. This year is this year. I got good durians for you." And then in a louder voice with arms outspread, he declared, "I got good durians for everyone!"

Surprisingly, not many people cheered. They were more interested in getting the free samples that his employees were handing out.

"Business looks good," I remarked. "Think you can do well enough to stay here permanently?"

"Got good chance, lah," he said with a wide grin. "You think that other group got chance meh? Their last guy anyhow run away, let the business down. Like that you can trust that group one, har?"

Then in a more serious tone, he said, "Then this new guy that they want to run the stall, I heard things about him. I tell you, he is no good one lah. I heard last time, when that group wanted to set up a stall in East Coast Park, this guy was one of the few that they had considered to be the owner. But my guys heard him say that he all along never wanted to be the owner there."

He shook his head with disgust. "You tell me, who is telling the truth? They all cannot trust one lah." He waved his hand in a dismissing manner.

Then he gave me a big white bag. I looked inside and saw four white boxes. "Nah, take! My best durian," he said. "Don't say I never give you goodies!"

I thought about how generous he was to give away his durian just like that. But before I could thank him, a group of aunties suddenly rushed into the stall. I saw that they had arrived in buses from the rest of the island. Wow, either this stall was so popular that people were coming from everywhere, or these aunties had been incentivized to come here.

Whatever the case may be, the stall was getting too crowded for my liking, and anyway, I hadn't checked out the other stall yet. So I made my way there. It was crowded too, and the customers were louder and more boisterous, but the atmosphere seemed light-hearted and relaxed.

I happened to catch the eye of the new stall owner. "Hi there," he said happily. "Thanks for coming. How can I help you?"

Though his blue shirt was stained with perspiration and he clearly looked tired, he was able to keep up his positive demeanour. I was amazed by it.

"I have some good quality durians," he continued. "Probably not as good as the other guy's, but they're just as delicious. Anyway, I always say that when you eat durian, you are not just enjoying the fruit, but also taking in the entire experience."

Then in a coy manner, he said, "That's my tagline lah: We may live in third world country, but my durian will make you feel first world!" He laughed at that and I chuckled with him. It had a cute and catchy ring to it.

"Any free samples?" I enquired hopefully.

"Sorry, lah," he said. "I don't give out samples to buy your loyalty."

That was honest of him to say. In the end, I bought six boxes of durian from him, which he packed up in a blue plastic bag.

When I arrived home, I ate the durians from the blue bag first. There weren't as many fruit in each box as I had hoped. The fruit themselves were small, though fleshy. But as I sunk my teeth into the fruit, I recalled what the stall owner had said about savouring the entire experience. I closed my eyes and imagined a first world paradise with delicious durian everywhere. It was a nice dream.

Then I tried the fruit from a white box. I was amazed when I saw how many durian fruits had been packed into it. And they all looked so big and yummy! Instantly, I grabbed one and bit into it. Alas! The seed inside was also large, so that there was really only a little fruit coating it. It was a bittersweet affair and I wondered how my long-time durian seller could sell such deceptive fruit.

In the end, I settled down with my blue boxes of durian. Not so sweet, not so tender, but I could dream of durian paradise, couldn't I?

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