What Place Do You Remember? #WriteBravely

Write Tribe PlaceToday is the third day of Write Tribe Festival of Words. Yesterday’s post was about a resource you use,” and today’s is about “write about a place, real or virtual.” 

I’ve written about so many places, some of them virtual, others a strange and fantastical amalgamation of the two. That’s my job as a writer.

A place that you rememberOne that strikes me is a Durian plantation (Durians look like Jackfruit, have spiky exteriors and custard-y insides, stink, and you either hate ’em or love ’em) in Penang, Malaysia.

I’d never eaten one before I went to the plantation, and ended up liking it (other than the inevitable stinky burps—urgh!).

But the vipers creeped me out. Yes, that’s right, out on a walk among the trees, I quickly discovered the bright bellies of snakes casually hanging out on the branches, some of them low enough that I could reach out and stretch them. Temple vipers. Venomous, and treated by total unconcern by all the staff at the plantation.

I couldn’t stop talking about the place, and a friend asked if I could write a story set in that place. I did, and it found a place in Griffith Review, Australia.

The graphic contains an excerpt, but if you think of checking out the entire story, here it is.

What about you? If asked to write about a place real or virtual, what would you write about?


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40 comments

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  1. hilarymb

    Hi Damyanti – I wouldn’t write about Daryans or vipers for that matter … now I’ll have nightmares! Wonderful story … and so very probably true rather more often than one imagines … Interesting to see it’s such a rare fruit and one has to book/queue to see, taste and try it. Nutmeg juice sounds interesting too. Great story telling … wonderful I think I’ll go to South Africa … but it might be Cornwall, or perhaps the Lake District – I go where the mind takes me … cheers Hilary

  2. Obsessivemom

    This definitely looks like Jackfruit, though I cannot bring myself to eat even that, raw. For us jackfruit has always been a vegetable, not a fruit. cannot stand its smell. Looked up google for vipers on durian plantations and it is truly scary. Sounds like a great setting, though. Let me go read your story now.

  3. Holly Jahangiri

    I finally tried Durian a couple of years ago – apparently an inferior sort, frozen and shipped to the US, but I wouldn’t know the difference and being frozen, its “custardy” insides were more like ice cream. Very sweet, and the smell was less bothersome than the Jackfruit I also tried (not too impressed with that, and no warning about its stickiness was quite adequate!)

    I love your writing, Damyanti. I would have been more than a little creeped out by vipers hanging from the tree branches, though. I might never climb a tree again.

  4. Menaka Bharathi

    I am from Coonoor Damayanti and while we travel towards Mettupalayam there is one huge plantation of Durian a fruit that needs to be booked atleast 3 months before. It is so rare here and there is a long queue to get it. I have tried it and yes the burp 🙂 Here we do not get to walk around in the plantation, its just till the first few rows and then you are delivered the fruit.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Wow, I had no idea that there were Durians in India! I’ve never been to Coonoor but intend to go there some day– I’ve heard of the beauty of the place on my visits to Coimbatore.

  5. grumps666

    I enjoyed reading your short story titled ‘Of Durians and Vipers’, Damyanti. Your voice, writing style, and descriptive skill enabled me to visualise the scenes and empathise with the characters’ emotions. I can personally relate to the heartbreaking situation of caring for a partner who’s suffering from a terminal illness. And I couldn’t help finding metaphorical interpretations of the snakes and the Durian fruits adding subtext to the overall arc of the story. Well done.

    Moving on… a particular place that means a great deal to me, after circumnavigating the world twice during my earlier life, has to be the little coffee bar where I first met my wife in 1958. I owe everything in my subsequent life to that unplanned encounter on a cold February evening. It led to love, marriage, five children and their eventual partners, 15 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-grandchildren [at the last count ;-).] The name of the coffee bar was The Good Intent, but it became known as Smokey Jo’s to the locals. And 59 years later, of all the places I’ve visited during my long lifetime, Smokey Jo’s just has to be almost the centre of my Universe–though nothing can beat being right next to my wife , holding her hand, and feeling her squeeze my fingers because she’s unable to speak. That gentle touch says it all.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Thanks for your kind words,John.

      Thank you also for sharing this lovely, poignant story of your life with Janet–Smokey Jo’s must be quite the place. Sending my regards to her– that last line of your comment moved me. My marriage is a whippersnapper when compared to yours, in terms of age, but I hope that my husband and I continue to share the love we do, and are able to speak of it beautifully the way you have done.

  6. Vidya Sury

    What a fascinating experience, Damyanti! I’ve never seen a durian..I don’t think I have, anyway. Hanging out with snakes creeps me out. A place that finds a warm cozy corner in my memory is where I lived as a teenager. Wonderful memories!

  7. Shilpa Garg

    Venomous vipers and the staff is cool about them!! Interesting but this would scare me a LOT! 😀

  8. Jacqui Murray

    Adding these hanging vipers to any setting would catch a reader’s attention. You remind me that’s the purpose of describing settings–to make them memorable, as another character.

  9. the bespectacled mother

    Ughhh! It is scary to move about getting to view poisonous snakes on all sides. Last year, in the rainy season, cobras were seen nearly everyday in my apartment and you can imagine how terrified I must be at the mere mention of snakes. For today’s post, i have written about my home town Delhi and its significance for me.

  10. Shalzzz

    That is so scary. I read your original post and I went crazy. Loved your article but it creeped me out for I hate reptiles! Phew!

  11. Akshata Ram

    Ewww that was quite something. I would write about my hometown Mnagalore where I spent a few years or Zurich which took my breath away not just because of the scenic beauty but the acts of kindness- in fact thats my post for Day 3

    • Damyanti Biswas

      I’ve never been to Meghalaya–do link me up if you ever write about it, Nabanita.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      I’m wary of them too– we have to respect nature. I didn’t take a very long walk at the plantation. And the fruit is everywhere in Malaysia and Singapore– trying it is quite the adventure for the first-timer!

    • Damyanti Biswas

      The name comes from the fact there’s a Snake temple where the snakes are allowed to move freely. The official name is Wagler’s Pit Viper.

  12. ianscyberspace

    It would be so hard to choose one place that carries a unique memory. In every place I’ve been there are several that came to mind as I read your blog. Nice that you found a publisher for your memory.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Ian, it wasn’t really a memory, the story is about an elderly Canadian man tending to his dying wife in a tropical plantation he has made his home. 🙂 . You’re right though– it was hard to pin down a placa I wanted to write about– I wrote about this one because i like the story that came out of it, and also because setting plays such a major role in this story– the snakes in particular.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Haha, Durians are ‘interesting’ to say the least. You can’t ignore one if you encounter it– you have to love it or hate it. The neural cortex seems so near, yet so far, doesn’t it? Even with years of meditation, I don’t think a lot of humans manage to visit their own brains with any reliability.

      • The Laughable Cheese

        very good point. Visiting durian plantations and neural cortexes both seem like very interesting afternoons. With their own mysteries to explore.
        Hm.. I’ve never had a durian before.