Work Chronicles – On an Island (Part II)

There Yew Ju had a small tortoise and petting it.

Whew! Ju you scared me I chided her. Mr Chan with heavy orange work boots asked “is everything OK?”

There was the sound of a siren indicating lunch hour. Mr Chan suggested we move to cafeteria lest the food got exhausted. While we walked the short 250 meters to the yellow-brown house, he filled in and told that food is cooked exclusively for the 18 member team and we better hurry before somebody helps themselves to extra helpings.

It seems the humid sea air makes people hungry very easily and he was telling me now. With great expectations we trudged into the cafetaria.

Allready chans gang was at work with chopsticks, flied lice ( fried rice), lobestor, shrimp,fillet, rice ( bland – no curry) and olange (orange) juice.

In Bavathi bikshandehi style ( Begging for alms in true indian way) we queued up for the food. Chan and Ju had no issues but I had a major problem.

Does this have Egg? I queried. The lady serving nodded her head and said “these kaya – Yes”. She meant there is egg in it. I moved on. She pointed to far end say “No kaya – Hallal”. That meant those dishes on far end dont have egg and is cooked halal meat.

Already perspiring from heat, my temper was rising too. So 6 out of 12 dishes ruled out. With my chances slimmering and circles of swooning and falling coming up, I asked “This one?”.

The lady said “Yes – good. No kaya, No hallal”.

Ju by now had realised my plight and came to my help. In broken mandarin ( yes, folks the chinese, japanese,koreans all have dialects which are not understood by all) she asked for pure vegetarian food as I had taken her to a Indian restuarant and explained my good reasons of what is edibale.

I was educated that, for chinese any thing that has its back turned towards you is edible. After Ju explained all the ruled out things, there was a strange expression on the ladies face.

Like having had the darshan of Tao, short of falling at my feet she exclaimed. “ooh You are one of those strange ones I had heard of but not seen. May god bless you” with this she disappeared to serve others.

Ju now understood my plight and produced some biscutes and said “Mohen! sorry lah. Think you need to skip lunch loh! unless you want to taste the fresh yummy lobesters”

This sealed my fate for the day and should also answer any queries of why chinese ( singaporeans) however beautiful they may be – dont suite my teaste – literally.

I had doubts even on the buscuit and tried to read what was printed. These buggers make biscutes out of fish – this I learnt in my future visits to another tormenting country – Japan. Ju smiled and said “no lah, this is the same one we all eat at office loh.”

Readers kindly note the Lah and Loh. That is how singlish is spoken.

After making funny faces and one huge olange juice and a happy Ju who proclimed she had eatan the best sea food outside of Australia, I kept looking at watch for the 4’0 Clock so that my mission could end.

Some more explanations, me half asleep and half dazed while Ju tried to take out the pet star turtle, some how 4’O Clock struck and wishing Chan best of luck, we ran to the pier.

The captain said “welcome loh. We will be late by 10 minutes. One of chans men is also joining but meanwhile you can sit in the yatch”. Some mandarin or cantonese song was blaring from the music system and the 10 minutes was like 1 hour to me.

Strange as it is but I could smell the shoreline at Tangong pagar. My stomach growled and we disembarked and waved saying “thanks loh”.

Ju without asking me said she will drop me back to office or to a restuarant. The big boss was waiting for me at office. After taking another apple juice from the station machine, we drove back to office. Sure, God was waiting there. It took me 27 agonising minutes to complete the “sizing” as its called. Another 13 minutes of explaining and down-sizing the estimation with steve meant the whole of saturday and sunday was mine

I switched off the pager and hired a cab to serangoon or little India. I ate so much of a meal – I will never forget it, just could not walk out of the place. The manager half laughing and looking at my plight called a cab. With great effort got back to my home and slept at 7PM, only to wake up next day 11 AM.

Even today I wonder what James would have done in my shoes, but my feet dont fit his shoes any ways!


16 Responses to Work Chronicles – On an Island (Part II)

  1. Vani says:

    I have some experience with the “lahs” while dealing with the Singapore clients…and once I was speaking to one of the guys from Singapore, he had a call from his travel agent, and he said in answer to something, maybe his pick-up, “Changi Airpo Teminal Thoo”, and then the price….”how much lah”…then “ten dalla lah”, by that time I had reached the end of my tether…I had to go out, lest I burst out laughing on his face…even today, whenever someone of us speaks to Singapore, the whole day we are in the “Lah” business…

    “Yen Lah”, ” Hog Lah”…etc…

  2. Vani,
    So you too had your share of singlish. Globalization in full swing. British laugh at american english, americans laugh at asians english, we laugh at others. So ultimately some how every body is laughing.

  3. Prasanna Sastry says:

    Mohan avare, During my trip to singapore in 2000 I was given 1500USD for a 15 days stay including Hotel Room Cost. First day I had bindaas Mysore Masale as Komala Nivas costing 6SgD as usual Tamil Chutney i went for additional chutney thinking our dharshins they handed me a bill of 3 sg dollar. Avaga thale thirigithu. After the meal i realised Rs.20 masale ge Rs.250 kodabekagithu.

    Then on skipped breakfast so that i could have better lunch and same problem like u . Luckily i found Kamat in some food court. Also my office to Hotel was about 4Kms and to save more i walked.

    On the day of checking out I had amount from the Hotel to Changi airport only. From Blr Airport to Vijayanagar i asked my dad to pay telling him bari dollar irodu antha. Yenu keluthira Paristhithi

  4. Sastry sir,
    So, neevu komala vilas ge bandidra? Good reading. Nivu yake ondu blog hake nimma kathe helbardu. I would definetly enjoy it.Thanks.

  5. Prasanna Sastry says:

    Mane Nalli yavadu Laptopu mathu internetge samandha pattidu
    tharabaradu antha namma shrimathi avara orderu.

    Yenu madokke agodilla “Kalaya Thasmai Namaha”

  6. Understand aguthe sir.
    Its actualy good for the family.
    But you can pen such details in leisure time and mail it to bellur or myself. We will do the needfull. Just now BRU has written about Kamadahana in Vanis blog.

  7. Veena says:

    Sastry gaLe parvaagilri…. inta orders nella paalisteerella… Good!
    not too sure if you have bartered this deal with something else 🙂

  8. Nodi sir, hege deal madthre antha!! Abbbaba!

  9. Veena says:

    Life is a policy of give & take. deal ella gandasru maadodu adakke naanu sastry sir na keLiddu 🙂

    Read Chanakya neeti recently, he says no friendship is selfless or something similar.

  10. Prasanna Sastry says:

    Veena avare ,

    Munchee gandasari ge bari take take take antha ethu evaga bari give give give.

    Nimma Barterdu statement Artha agalilla.

  11. Veena says:

    Good one! Females du opposite case, they patiently give it for so long time that the emotional balance at the end will be fat & it will be her turn to take it. 🙂

    Barter andre, idanna opkondu innennadru beretaradalli take maadodu antha, simply pulling leg ashTe bidi 🙂

  12. some body says:


    that’s it. i did not reach the end of this story. if i do, i will need to get my stomach stitched together. my blog is in vijay’s blogroll (how and why, don’t ask me – ask him :-), and you are now officially in the humour section. please create another blog for your financial stuff (ok, just kidding!).

    – s.b.

  13. Vijay says:

    My 3 years in Singapore cause me to lapse into Singlish whenever I am talking to anyone in S’pore or Malaysia… it was strange at first but then you start using the Chinese slangs as well and start beginning your sentence with “Waaah”… and ending it with Lah or Loh…

    For the vegetarians, its usually rice or one HUGE mushroom dipped in Soy sauce and various uncut vegetables, including spinach… (hasu thara)… never ask what the sauce is made of because invariably there’ll be some kind of fish extract…

    These days during most “business” dinners I have 2 meals.. one a local meal where I pretend to eat.. once thats over, I take a taxi and motor down to Serangoon Road…

    Malay food has more vegi varieties though…

  14. Vijay,
    Phull experienced just like me 🙂 But i miss singapore culture here. If I purchased 14$ 50Cents in a shop and gave the girl 50Cents change so that she can give me back the proper change, cant forget that all the checkers in the shop still cant understand our terminology and give funny looks. Finally you land back change of 6$, one 50Cent which is the return change and another 50Cent which was originally given to you. I practice your food etiquete even in india as outside food doesnt suite my gastric juices!

    Please take care. Dont laugh so much. Vijay sir you need to answer that question why here.

  15. Vijay says:

    Because it was there…

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