2007-12-01. Around 12.20-1.40 pm. Plaza OUG.
Just when I thought that the free banana operation would be one of those crazy things in life that I do only once, three friends told me that they would like to join if I was going to do it again.
So, there were five of us, all have something to do with journalism. We either practice, teach or study journalism. I realized this was perhaps no coincidence when I explained to a lady why we need to be creative in getting the message through: the blackouts in the mainstream media.
Indeed, quite a few people did not know or recall at once the yellow rally three weeks ago. One asked me if it was the Indians’ one.
We initially spent RM 30 for about 10 bunches of bananas. Fresh from the Giant Supermarket in the shopping mall. They were all gone within less than an hour. So, we took more stocks from the Giant. In slightly more than hour, we must have given out about 150 bananas.
In other words, each of us has interacted with 30 peoples in average. Of course, not all bothered to ask why. Nevertheless, I am sure that even those who just walked us by skeptically would have wonder what this “banana” business was all about.
For that much of public attention, our individual costs were only about RM 8 and about 90 minutes of our free time. As the traffic safety advertisements have it, you can make a difference.
Repetition brings familiarity and trust. Just when we started our operation, a lady who worked in the shopping mall quickly came to us and took three bananas for her and her colleagues. She must have seen us last week or heard others talking about it. That’s the whole point – we want people talking about it, even if thinking it as something silly.
Of course, we have also attracted the attention of the premise management. We were first asked to do it only on the ground floor. Half an hour later, we were told gently by two gentlemen that we need to write in officially. Otherwise, we could only do it outside the building. We obliged by moving to the entrance to give away the last few bananas.
I checked with Haris Ibrahim on the legality. Technically, shopping malls are private premises, we were only invited guests and the owners do have the right to ask you leave. It reminds me how little public space we have as citizens. Once out of private premises, you may encounter police who ask if you have the permit.
A lady, who praised our actions just when the two gentlemen intervened, certainly has thought of that. She moved quickly away from us and reminded me that the police may take action.
I now realize that this “operation free bananas” is not as funny as I thought. Bananas are indeed very powerful weapons to challenge the nemesis that resides in our heart: fear. It is not funny because of this sad reality.
It reminds me of the message of our “involuntary” yellow corporate partner: Digi. “It’s time to change!”