Of red eyes, lunch dates and doggie friends…

I wake up today, if you can call it that – after not being able to sleep all night, rather late. The Scientist  has already decided that I am either calling in sick, or going late, by the looks of it. I haven’t been able to sleep much, I mumble in my sleep. It’s the fall in the temperatures, he says. The mercury has plummeted to single digit in the night. But I am perhaps more excited because our parents have been planning to visit us in Taipei, and am kept awake with a zillion things that need to be done before their arrival.

The husband notices it first – my right eye is pink, and kind of flattened. I have difficulty in opening it properly. I am definitely going in late, I say to myself.. I can’t make myself go back to sleep, so I might as well wake up. I stumble into the kitchen, realising I have planned to make sabudana khichadi for breakfast today. I set about peeling and chopping potatoes for the same. Quickly making shengacha koot (crushed peanuts), I fry the potatoes in ghee spiced with cumin and green chillies, add the sabudana (sago), shengacha koot and let it cook. Khichadi done, I go and get ready for work.

I arrive late at work, only to find my swipe card doesn’t not work. A colleague offers to ask the HR about it on my behalf (for I still can’t speak fluent enough Chinese and need to rely on others to interpret for me). I make my leave applications, as I eat my khichadi, taking help from a colleague to do the needful. The sore eye doesn’t help much, and I am in no mood to work. Some time later, I decide a coffee is needed to perk me up. It has been a week after we returned from the Philippines, and I haven’t had any cuppa, so I savour the first one after a long time. I sip slowly, browse through some articles, correct my earlier blogs, and realise it’s almost lunch time. The sabudana khichadi sits a bit heavily, so I ask hubby what his lunch plans are. If it’s Friday, his reply is almost always, fried rice. I cannot finish that huge bowl, how about our Ajji for sandwiches, I venture.

We agree to meet up at 12:40 near his office. I start from my office at 12:25, deciding to walk up to his, leaving my bicycle behind. As soon as I step out, I am greeted by crisp cold winter chill. It is not windy today, but I still push my hands into my coat pocket for all the warmth they can offer. I meet a dog, who decides he will follow me some of the way. He is probably trying to see if I pet him or not. I try not to show him my fear, and ask him to let me go, with my eyes. He follows me some distance, and then realises, I am not worth the effort.

The husband is not around when I reach his building. A quick call confirms he hasn’t descended from the upper stories yet. Why don’t you go on and order, I will join you in 5 mins, he says. Ok, but don’t make it later than 5.

I walk into our breakfast shop, to find there are only two other customers inside. Ajji is making noodles for one of them. I quickly place my order: liange chizhi sanminzhi, bu yao dan, yiga re naicha (2 cheese sandwiches, 1 hot milk tea). She sets about making my order. First to be served is the hot milk tea. I sip it slowly, it’s been a long time since I have had it. Then come the sandwiches. They are our regular order. Crisp toasted bread, cheese, ketchup and grated cucumber. I finish one, turning around often to see if husband has arrived it. I am itching to eat the green spring onion paratha, as I call it. I don’t remember what it’s called, so I need to wait for the Scientist to come and place that order. I hope he hurries up, I think, for if ajji switches off her gas, then there can be no further orders.  Since he has taken his time coming, I end up eating the second sandwich as well.

When I have almost finished the second one, hubby arrives, order a couple of more sandwiches for himself, and the green onion paratha. Don’t forget to tell her, no egg, I remind him. Ajji remembers it though. She gives him his hot tea of her own accord, and soon sandwiches follow. Since there is no rush, she takes her time to crisply toast the scallion pancake, and serves it with soy sauce and pair of chopsticks. I immediately dig into mine, while hubby finishes his sandwiches. After having eaten two thirds, I declare I am full. But I can’t resist nibbling a few bites here and there. We talk of this and that, planning for our parents’ travel to Taipei.

Ajji has, by now, finished tidying up the place for the day and about to close down. We pay for our meal, and she offers us two fish sandwiches for free. We politely decline saying we are vegetarians and get out. We still have time until the lunch break is over, and what with the husband’s boss out, I coax him to take a longish walk with his wife. We decide to take the back road, and make our way towards the park, and then to the river, which flows through our research institute grounds. We chat, exchange stories, peer at the river to find a white bird waiting for fish (we argue whether it’s a heron or a crane, and resolve to go back and check upon it). The stream is almost empty, and further down, we see all the fish huddled up as if in a conference. It the deepest part of the river, the Scientist explains. We pass by a Kejriwal look-alike, complete with moustache, spectacles, and the muffler rounded up. I try hard not to stare, and suppress my giggles. There are rows of empty benches along the bank, so one of it beckons us. We make a stop, and the hubby decides he will go and renew the gym membership. The gym is quite close to my office, so I accompany him, and wait while he completes the formalities. Since the Scientist has hardly used his gym membership last year, I point out to the gym area where people actually exercise, and he replies he’s too lazy to climb up all the way. So I point out to the swimming pool, and pat comes the reply – I am too lazy to climb all the way down! I shake my head at the witticism, make a note of the adjoining clinic’s timings (my eye has turned a new shade of pink and red by now) and we part ways at the intersection.

My doggie friend is waiting for me there. He follows me doggedly (pun intended) to my office building, and then waves a goodbye. I go back to find a message waiting from the husband, and we discuss some more on the dismal state of world affairs. He is rather upbeat and optimistic, and I soon declare that I feel like the baffled Arjuna on the battlefield, taking sermons from Krishna (which in a way is ironical for his name is that of Arjuna, and being my husband automatically makes him Krishna!). I try working on some codes, but my eye doesn’t let me. So I pick up my ID card, and purse, put on my coat, and go down to the clinic. The doc in attendance, examines me, and writes out a prescription for eye drops, to be taken from the adjoining pharmacy. The lady at the pharmacy counter asks me to pay NTD 8 and that leaves me amused at the subsidized cost of medicines available to the staff at our Institute. No wonder Taiwan ranks No. 1 in affordable healthcare, and best places to live!

As I am returning back to office, I notice that the sky has mostly cleared, and the Sun is wondering whether to come out shining. He plays peek-a-boo from behind the clouds, I linger hoping to bask in some sunlight. But the Sun has decided it will adhere to the Central Weather Bureau forecast, and perhaps make a showing only tomorrow. I return to my post, use the eye drops, and wait for them to take effect. In no time, I feel cool, and much better than I felt the whole morning. That then, is my signal to finish off this blog post, and get back to my codes.

(Update: I meet our Kejriwal again in the evening as I am leaving office. This time I am on my bicycle, so I go a distance, and laugh all I want)

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