I’m not a banana, the poppodum said to the omelet
By Nury Vittachi
SOMEONE asked me the other day if I was a banana. It wasn’t as odd a question as it sounds. She wanted to know if I was “yellow on the outside but white on the inside”, indicating a cultural mix of east and west.
As a South Asian, I couldn’t possibly be a banana. But what was I? A curry? A poppadum? A lime pickle, extra spicy? What would you call Imran Khan, the Anglicized Pakistani cricketer, or Pat Morita, the American actor who played Japanese sages? Charlie Chan, the famous Chinese movie detective, was played by a Swede, as in the nationality, not the vegetable, although come to think of it, it wouldn’t have made much difference to the quality of acting either way.
It got me thinking. Can a Swede be a banana? Can a banana be a swede? We need a wider range of metaphorical edibles, I decided. So here’s a guide to “Residents of Asia as Foodstuffs”.
You are a Banana (yellow on the outside, white inside) if you look Chinese but speak Mandarin with an accent and gag at the thought of eating chicken feet.
Where Bananas are found: In the Asia-Pacific offices of US multinationals, talking about their guangxi (contacts) and trying to dress like Omelets.
You are an Omelet (yellow on the outside, yellow on the inside) if you regularly eat things which have tentacles and can make money with your eyes closed.
Where Omelets can be found: Running businesses in off-the-beaten track locations such as Saigon and Irian Jaya.
You are a Choc Ice (brown on the outside, white on the inside) if you look south Asian, but you prefer jazz to bhangra, like lager better than lassi, and have a thing about blondes.
Where Choc Ices can be found: At technology companies all over Asia.
You are a Cappuccino (white on the outside, brown on the inside) if you look Western but you’d instantly swap a fortnight in Florida Disneyworld for a week in a high-class ashram with an ayurvedic spa.
Where Cappuccinos can be found: In yoga classes in every main city in Asia.
You are a Boiled Egg (white on the outside, yellow on the inside) if your parents raised you to go to church but you now think Buddhism is cool, Tibet is a mystical paradise, and Richard Gere is an actor.
Where Boiled Eggs can be found: Wandering around Asia working as teachers and editors.
You are a Vanilla Yogurt (white on the outside, white on the inside) if you think of yourself as cosmopolitan but almost all your albums are by Caucasian singers and you hold your nose when you smell natto, tofu or lime pickle.
Where Vanilla Yogurts can be found: In international schools all over Asia.
You are Beef On Rye (brown on the outside, brown on the inside) if you add fresh chopped chilli to everything you eat, including chilli sauce, and sit cross-legged on Western chairs and sofas.
Where Beef On Ryes can be found: All over Asia in fields which favour swots, such as medicine and electronic engineering.
So what am I? I decided that I was a Deep Dish Super-Supreme, which is a pizza with everything on it. Or to put it another way, some of us are just plain mixed-up.