Ever wondered this – why do women sell papayas and men sell water melons? When I asked this question aloud to no one in particular, a teenaged girl sitting next to me rolled her eyes up and said – its because water melons are heavier. But that answered only the second part of the question.
I don’t know how it is in the town or city or village that you live. I live in Pune and suddenly today realised this. It was always women that sold papayas and they were almost always middle-aged or old. Sitting on the side of roads, they placed the papayas gently one by one on a gunnysack spread out on the floor. Useful things gunnysacks. They are used for the first time to transport grain, cement or miscellaneous goods and once those items are emptied from it, the gunnysack has millions of other uses. My grandmother used to use them for wiping feet and had placed one folded gunnysack at the entrance of every room in our house. She would duly wipe her feet on them before entering each room, recycling and redistributing the dust from one room to another with her feet. A lady visitor once asked me why we had so many gunnysacks in our house and only then did I realise that it was not a common custom. But until then, I had got so used to them that I thought this is what most people do in their houses as well. Its funny how when you are young, your view of the world is influenced by what goes on in your own house. But that was in the days when television was not so much a part of our lives. Atleast not a 24×7 feature as it is now.
But I have digressed and if you forgive me, I promise to find an answer to the question asked in the beginning, before I end this musing.
Papayas have a slight peculiar smell. For that reason my mother never bought them and I had not eaten one until after I got married. As you may have guessed, the favourite fruit of everyone in my new household was – yes, the now world-famous papaya that we are talking about. But with that tiny diversion squashed, I promise to strictly stick to the subject. (can you say that three times without going wrong: strictly-stick, strictly-stick, strictly-stick..)
Papaya – known as mamao in Brazil, papao in Sri Lanka, Tree Melon in Chinese and du du in Vietnamese – has medicinal properties in both its green/unripe and ripe form. The enzyme papain found in green papaya can tenderize meat and has long been used for this purpose in South America where the fruit is first said to have originated.It is cultivated in most tropical countries and women in South Asia have long used the fruit for its contraceptive properties. Hmm… that must be making it easier for a papaya-seeking woman to quickly buy a papaya from another one of her sisters.
If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the papaya-selling-women have about a dozen and never more than two dozen papayas to sell. A nice small number to finish selling by afternoon and go back home in time for other jobs and chores at home. Look around Pune in the evening and you will not find a single woman selling papayas. One evening, I wanted to pick up a papaya on the way home from work and found all those nice women gone. They were busy I’m sure with other kinds of work so they can return next morning to their appointed places on the side of roads and display the juicy yellow-orange colored papayas, arranging them neatly on a gunnysack. I’m glad that women sell papayas. Such a nice, simple, useful, sensible, straight-forward thing to do.
Why do women sell papayas?? Now, who has been asking that silly question again and again? Who?
Appeared first on 4Indianwoman.com