Eating durian with my grandpa

Grandpa opening a durian from Balik Pulau, Penang
Grandpa opening a durian from Balik Pulau, Penang

On my first day home for the Christmas holidays, my grandpa goes out to the market and buys me a durian fruit. Everytime I’m back in Penang, he gets me durian. It’s not exactly my favourite fruit, but I will eat it if he buys it for me.

Instead of hanging around the kitchen waiting to be served, I decide to follow him to the back of the kitchen this time, where he gets a short stool and opens the fruit on the floor.

When he buys the durian, there is usually a slit at the bottom made by the seller. But he brings along a cleaver anyway and starts to pry it open. The sharp green spikes of the fruit contrast against his dark wrinkled hands – dark from the years of working under the sun, wrinkled from 79 years of living under the sun.

I watch in amazement as his hands wrestle against the spikes – spikes that are so sharp you could kill somebody with it. The black ants are crawling all over the shell and all around his hands. But he takes no notice of them. They don’t bite like the red ones on rambutan trees.

My Olympus camera hangs clumsily across my belly, as I try to snap as many pictures as I can, trying to capture the experience and the act of opening a durian like a novice, as though the moment will slip away soon enough. But nothing can replace the real life presence of actually being there.

So I sit on the dusty concrete floor, not caring about dirtying my denim shorts nor tainting my expensive machine with the sticky durian flesh. For the pictures from this machine will in no way replace the actual presence of eating durian with my grandpa.


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