Banana is a daily staple in South Asia, a fruit which everybody can easily afford. In my childhood, banana was rare in Karachi and it was not grown in West Pakistan. We got it only when someone visiting us would bring it from what was then called East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
My first experience with banana goes back to my early childhood in East Pakistan. I was seven and we were traveling on board a train from Dacca (now Dhaka) to Ishurdi. On the way, we passed by patches of green and my father told me that those were banana trees. I do not remember what else he said. It was about lunch time and I was feeling pangs of hunger. My mother assured me that we would soon reach my Khala’s (aunt’s) home and eat there. At that very moment, a fruit vendor got into the car. He was selling bananas and lychees. My father bought me some lychees and a big banana. One big banana! It was of extra long variety and I was not able to eat all of it. My mother scolded me for crying that I was hungry and yet I could not finish a single banana. During several month of our stay in East Pakistan, my mother wanted us to eat the fruits not commonly available in Karachi. Besides mangoes, I had a variety of fruits such as kathal, jamrul, lychee, daab, and tori seed, but for some reason I did not crave for banana.
Things changed during the regime of Ayub Khan and Sindh became the biggest producer of banana which became the cheapest fruit and we ate it almost every day. As became a family man, my children too liked to eat banana.
My family moved to USA in 1991 and we got settled in Absecon, a small town on the outskirt of Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was difficult for my children to get used to new food that was available in the United States. But we still bought a lot of bananas. I noticed that banana was not too commonly eaten by Americans, and my colleagues found it somewhat weird that I took banana for lunch. A colleague once commented that her mother ate banana as she was potassium deficient and the doctors had prescribed it for her. She thought banana was medicinal fruit to cure potassium deficiency.
On a Sunday afternoon, I took along my youngest son, Adeel, who was four at that time. Even at that age, he was a brilliant child with a good sense of humor. We saw bananas on sale for less than 50% of its original price so we picked about three dozen. Since Atlantic City is the biggest town in South Jersey, it attracts lot of young guys and girls from the neigboring farm lands. These youngsters are usually quite naive. At the cash register, there was a young girl. She scanned our grocery and picked up the bananas to put on the weigh scale. The following conversation ensued thereafter:
Cashier: Wow! These are lots of bananas. Do you have monkeys?
Me: Yes, four.
Cashier: Really? Where do you keep them? You must have a big cage.
Me: No, they live with us in the house.
Cashier: Really? I can’t believed that. Isn’t it strange that monkeys live in the house. They are wild.
Me: No they are human. Ask him. I pointed towards Adeel.
She looked at Adeel and said, “They don’t do anything.” I smiled and said no.
At this point Adeel laughed and said, “I am one of them.”
The cashier was shocked. She looked at him and then at me. By this time scan was finished and I was making the payment. Handing me the receipt, she said, “Wow! Making children believe that they are monkeys.”
Adeel and I had a good laugh and walked out. Every time i go to the grocery store and banana is on sale, I have the temptation to pick up dozens of them and then I remember the monkey story.
I’ll emphasize here that banana is a delicious fruit. It provides quick energy and those who do not eat on it every day should think about the many benefits of eating this fruit.