Column The Funny Side by Nury Vittachi
Fear is rising. Many people in the West are terrified that activist cells from Asia could cause chaos in urban areas using small, portable weapons of mass destruction. Yes, I am talking about durians. Recent events suggest the fears are justified. Consider this true story.
A homesick Asian student living in Britain went to a Chinatown supermarket recently and spent the equivalent of $30 on the abovementioned smelly, spiky fruit. Then he decided to walk home. Everyone he passed turned to glare at him. He leapt on a bus. After one minute, passengers were staring and sniffing. After two, they moved to the far end of the vehicle. After three, they ran from the bus and the driver phoned the police. The Asian student leapt off and ran to his bedsit, where he deposited the durian and went to a lecture. That’s when the real trouble began.
Neighbors called building managers to report a poison gas attack. Building managers called the police. The police called the army. An army hazardous materials team evacuated the building and sealed off the area. Within hours, the US military budget had doubled and global war had broken out.
Okay, it’s all true except that last sentence, so why didn’t I include the guy’s name? Because this scenario happens regularly. On the day of writing this, a durian purchase closed down part of Plymouth. It’s not just durian, either. At regular intervals, the Office of Emergency Management in New York receives panicked calls about clouds of “deadly caramel gas” sweeping through the city. Again, it’s just Asian food. A New York factory processes methi, a wonderfully tasty sweet Indian vegetable.
I read in a newspaper that security experts are worried that bad guys could bypass airport security by inserting chemical weapons into their bodies. But surely this already happens? My aunt’s baked lentil-cumin dish is the scariest chemical weapon on the planet. Simply sneak it onto the recipe list of an airline caterer and you could fill an entire plane with noxious gas in minutes. It would be a scene of indescribable horror and misery, just like her dinner parties. I discussed this with readers, and a French one said Asians could fight an entire war using smelly foods, such as Japan’s natto, China’s stinky tofu, Korea’s doenjang and so on. This was a bit cheeky, coming from the nation which invented camembert, a dangerous chemical weapon if ever I smelt one.
But here’s a two-part trick to cultivate harmony for any Asians living in or visiting Western countries. First, remove all cumin from your curry recipes. (That’s the ingredient that goes out through your pores.) Second, eat a large dish of stir-fried methi every other day. This makes your sweat smell to Western nostrils like maple syrup waffles. This is not a joke; I’ve tried it. Look it up on the Internet. You can save a fortune on after-shave. It’s long been known that if you eat lots of methi and stroll around airports, you soon find yourself followed by dozens of Canadians with their tongues hanging out. Now that’s scary.