Monday, October 08, 2007

Angkasawan & the amazing 'Tok Tok Mee' boy!

Those of you waiting for ‘The Necessary Demonization of Lee Lam Thye (3)’ just have to wait a little while more – am too tired this evening to do justice to the ugly piece I’ve planned ;-)

But reading Malaysiakini, I thought why don’t I publish a non political article which some visitors have been delighted with, or maybe more with my not-bashing someone who walks on water ;-)

Anyway, in the Malaysiakini news Rocket rolled out to launchpad we are once again reminded of Angkasawan Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor’s pending trip into space.

‘Angkasawan’ is of course Malay for ‘astronaut’ or if you prefer to be a purist, ‘cosmonaut’ because of the Russian Soyuz rocket blastoff from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

But many detractors have unkindly termed Muszaphar’s role as a ‘bolehnaut’. I won’t be that unkind to poor Muszaphar and wish him well, even though I do agree that the money could be better spent in a number of more needy projects here in that part of Malaysia that’s on Earth.

He will be taking off on Wednesday with Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and American Peggy Whitson on their way to the International Space Station.

Malaysiakini reported that
Muszaphar has attracted interest with a promise that he will, if possible, observe the fasting regime of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on the ISS.”

And to cater for that, “Malaysian religious authorities have prepared guidelines on how to adapt the rules as the ISS circles the earth 16 times each calendar day, which would technically mean having to pray 80 times every 24 hours, and cause havoc with the Ramadan rule on fasting between dawn and dusk.”

But I read somewhere that Islam has exemptions for travellers, and even as a non-Muslim I dare say there's no questioning that an angkasawan is most certainly a traveller, and one with several hundreds of thousands of kilometres to go.

Didn’t Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal state that it is permissible for a traveller to discontinue fasting.

I hope angkasawan Muszaphar is not making the promise to fast on the ISS to impress fellow Malaysians or because he has been pressured to make such a gesture during Ramadan.

An angkasawan or for that matter, an aircraft pilot, must be on full alert while on flight/space duties, and I hope a doctor can help me here, but wouldn't fasting lower the blood sugar level, a state known as hypoglycaemia?

It seems that when the blood sugar levels are too low, the brain does not receive enough glucose to function properly. The body then responds by increasing the quantity of blood flow to the brain as well as releasing hormones, which in turn release stored glucose into the blood stream. This results in increased blood pressure yadda yadda, and before you know it the poor bloke is suffering from headache, migraine and loss of ability to concentrate or focus.

I saw a movie (was it ‘Alien’?) with a catchy slogan of “In space no one can hear you scream.” Well, most certainly space isn’t exactly a place for an angkasawan not to have full command of his concentration, but I am sure the Malaysian Religious Department who prepared the guidelines knows best.

Additionally an angkasawan must also be dexterous, energetic and have an excellent sense of balance and coordination. Now, here is a candidate with all those qualities, someone I recall fom my childhood days, who could well be most qualified to be an angkasawan. Read on … about ‘The Amazing Tok Tok Mee Boy!’ from Penang.

Hawkers prowled the village where I grew up, serving the inhabitants with various delicious fares. The first one I want to describe has not so much to do with the quality of the food but more with the incredible cycling-balancing skills of the delivery boy.

"Tok tok mee, tok tok mee ….." – The cry would be repeated, accompanied by the steady clacking sound of bamboo striking on bamboo – tok tok tok tok tok.

These calls and sounds announced the arrival of the wanton (or wantan) mee boy in our street, ready to take anyone’s order. Penangites referred to wanton noodles as tok tok mee, probably, I suspect, for the reason of the associated bamboo clacking announcement.

He was about 10 to 11 years old, riding a bicycle that was far too big for him. Because the seat was too high for his boy’s legs to touch the ground when the bicycle was stationary, he cycled it by stretching his right leg (and part of his right hip) through the main triangular frame to reach the right pedal.

In that awkward asymmetric position he cycled his way all around the village singing out his trade calls. During his pedalling motion his whole body, except for his right leg & hip, would be on the left hand side, and he maintained balance by tilting the bicycle slightly to the right.

In that precarious balancing ride, his right wrist rested gently on the right handle bar, while the fingers and palm of the same hand operated the two bamboo pieces like
castanets, one a flat broad but short piece and the other just a slim single chopstick – tok tok tok tok tok it would go, without any rhythm being broken.

He was the roving scout or probe, send out by the mother-ship - the hawker cart operated by the wanton noodles man, probably his father - to take orders from afar. That operating procedure saved the hawker lots of valuable time that would have been wasted through pushing or cycling the cart for long distances to serve customers. It also enabled him to reach customers in localities inaccessible to the heavy cart, like hilly areas served by steep roads.

Having taken enough orders, the tok tok mee boy would ride back and wait for his dad to prepare the noodles. When ready, he placed the bowls of noodles soup on a wooden tray, sometimes as many as six cum spoons and chopsticks, and delivered them to the customers in that precariously balanced cycling configuration, but this time holding with his right hand a tray with those six bowls of noodles.

It was always a marvel to see him mount the bicycle - his left hand on the handle bar guiding the bicycle while his right hand held aloft the loaded tray, his left foot on the left pedal and the right foot kicking the ground to accelerate the vehicle into motion, and when sufficient speed gave a degree of stability to the moving bicycle, he rested his entire weight on the left pedal while lifting and sneaking his right leg (and right hip) through the triangular frame to reach the right pedal, and away he went. The manoeuvres were reversed when dismounting, this time with the left hand operating the brakes as well.

Now, that was a boy with an amazing sense of balance and coordination – he would have made either a great acrobat or a dexterous astronaut on a space walk to repair the Hubble Space.

“In space no one can hear you scream, but can anyone hear the tok tok tok of the wanton mee boy?” Hmmm, I propose the bloke as our next angkasawan candidate.


  1. Good luck to our Astronok...!

    Come back safe.

  2. I second the idea. Given the time frame of the story, the boy might be same age as that cosmonaut. ;)

    BTW, isn't it break the lift off rules if the "cosmonaut" fast in the space? The fasting will definitely create burden to other astronaut and make him the biggest space man-junks in the world history.

  3. Don't worry about the blood sugar level of our Bolehnaut as he is just a space tourist who holds no important responsibility in space flight.

  4. i dont agree of the bolehnaut program ... please use the money to help the poor.... that's baru malaysia boleh.. yang ini malaysia show off!!!!!

  5. This is strictly a Shiok-sendiri program.

    No bashing today of the Bolehland version of Yeshua ben Yusuf ?! I was looking forward to the article ...:-(

  6. One of our cost-more-naughts will blast off tomorrow, leaving the other behind. Not to worry, there will be another free ticket coming in the next few months. We just need to top up our order with another 10 Sukhois.

    Then, Malaysia will make history again and claim the record of having two space passengers within a year.

  7. The Bolehnaut Muszaphar said he hopes that his taxi ride into space will bring him closer to heaven. I thinks maybe he hopes to catch a glimpse of some virgins.


  8. no can do. the tok tok mee boy is not a muslim lah.