Pink on the outside and shiny white on the inside,
the little olive-shaped radishes glistened in the
bowl that the laoban's (boss's) wife placed before
me. I dithered for a moment before I picked one and
placed it gingerly into my mouth.
Radishes have always brought back bad memories and
for years I haven't touched anything that included
them. I mean, I wouldn't touch any food that had the
faintest hint of radish.
I must have been ten and I was on a train with my
younger brother and sister on our way back home from
school in Jaipur in western India. Our mother's aunt
was on the train with us. Each time the train stopped
at a station she would buy something from the hawkers
- fruits, tea, the odd snacks and radishes. We sniggered
each time she got off, her ample derriere on her short
frame swinging wildly from the exercise, a picture
that her sweetest smile cannot erase from our joint
memories - in part because of itself and in part because
of the radishes.
She bought a bunch of squeaky white, nearly foot
long, juicy-looking radishes. And, before that train
started from the station, she had buried her teeth
into the juicy flesh of one. The three of us politely
declined her offer, preferring more interesting food
than those radishes.
Minutes later she let go a very satisfied burp and
we all gasped, almost choking in the aftermath of
her happiness. We pulled all the windows of the carriage
open and walked as far away as we could from her when
the second burp followed and then a third...She couldn't
stop burping and all we could do was choke...and since
that memorable day radishes have been a strict no-no
for me and my brother. My sister fell prey to its
seductive charm some time ago but still desists from
letting herself go after it, choosing to restrict
herself to a small share.
Brother and I have been unrelenting in our resolve
to keep far away from anything radish.
But, today, I fell prey to its olive-shaped, pink-hued
avatar in far-away China. I must have had a bit more
than my mother's aunt did that fateful day on a train
from Jaipur. And, I am burping, too...but, thankfully,
there are no children around to kill me with a disgusted
look nor is there any one else who will learn from
me never to indulge in the pleasures of radish-flesh.
I wonder if the air around me smells as poisoned as
it did on that train...i wonder if Chinese radish
is as sweet to smell as it is to taste...
Rajesh Kanoi (Jack) is a published writer, now living
and working in China. Many of his short-stories, poems
and articles have been published, including a book
of short-stories, 'From China With Love' (Lipstick
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