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!