Mind Our English
By OH TEIK THEAM
HAMID, why are you not preparing teh tarik for your customers?” I asked the Teh Tarik Man the other day, as I dug into my fortnightly helping of roti canai.
Pointing at the blue-shirted young man standing a short distance away, he replied, “His name is Raman, and he is helping my wife and me run the business. Actually, he is on loan from my brother-in-law, who owns a restaurant in Penang.”
“Just like a footballer joining a club on loan, eh?” I teased him.
“Yeah,” he said, chuckling like a jovial car salesman.
“Raman is here because I have a frozen shoulder – I can’t lift my right arm completely. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can resume my normal duties soon. Let me give you a piece of good news,” he added. “The health department gave my premises a clean bill of health yesterday.”
“I’m glad about the department’s certification and sorry about your medical condition,” I said.
Nodding, he said, “My primary goal is to maintain the business so that I don’t lose my regular customers. Raman works like a horse, and I am happy with his unexampled diligence. Even without preparing the teh tarik, I usually have my hands full: I serve the customers, collect the money and wash the dishes.”
“You can still prepare the teh tarik,” I said matter-of-factly.
“How do I do that?”
“If you tarik the drink downwards, you don’t have to lift an arm.”
“That is out of the question,” he demurred at my suggestion, his thick eyebrows rising to underscore his words.
“I lift my right arm above my head when I tarik my teh tarik. If I were to prepare the drink now,” he continued, after rubbing his upper arm a little, “I may lift my right arm from force of habit, and then –”
“You will be in pain,” I finished the sentence for him.
“No,” he corrected me with a naughty wink. “The pain will be in me!”
“Don’t worry about the frozen shoulder,” I said after I had recovered from a paroxysm of laughter. “It will heal by and by and you’ll be all right.”
With a smile full of cheerfulness pouring into the creases of his wizened face, the Teh Tarik Man said, “As you can see, I am keeping my chin up!”
The other day: At some time not long ago.
Dig into: To begin eating heartily.
Keep one’s fingers crossed: To hope.
A clean bill of health: A report that a person or thing is healthy or in satisfactory condition.
Work like a horse: To work very hard.
Have one’s hands full: To be very busy.
Out of the question: Not to be considered; impossible.
By and by: In the course of time; soon.
All right: (i) Healthy or safe. (ii) I agree; yes. (“All right, you may go to the party,” the father said to his daughter.) (iii) Satisfactory. (This article is all right, but it will be even better with another rewrite.) (iv) Acceptable. (Is it all right for me to go to the party?) (v) Certainly. (He is the culprit all right.)
Keep one’s chin up: To remain cheerful when faced with worries, disappointments or difficulties.