Here, come let me introduce you to one of my long-time pals, Derek (left). He's from Singapore but I've known him for, what, 43 or 44 years? Yes, that must be correct. We were at the Penang Free School together. As school friends go, most of us had lost contact with one another immediately after secondary school. We reconnected about 10 years ago and I have been keeping in close touch with my old school pals in Singapore ever since. Hey, we even went to Kinabalu Park some four years back. The other chap is Teo Guan Cheong (right), an unassuming chain-smoking fella who even have had a state award conferred on him for his life-time work. Doing what, you may ask. For coaxing tiny white worms from your head. Serious!
Teo is a Chinese sinseh. He runs a small shop beside the Bukit Mertajam main market. His shop seems to be the small town's answer to the big town's private hospital. The work he does as a Chinese nose sinseh is the small town's version of the big town's ear, nose and throat specialist.
He only knows one job: to cure people of their sinus problem. For a long time, Derek has been suffering from a sinus problem which fucks up his hearing as well. He has been to many ENT specialists in Singapore but none of them has been successful in clearing up his problem. Expensive as well, according to him. "If those ENT fellas can't cure me with their sophisticated solution, perhaps I should also look at alternative medicine," he told me. That's how we found ourselves in this tiny shoplot yesterday morning.
Teo took one look at Derek and poked his nose with his finger. "Sinus," he said. What about me, I asked him out of curiosity. He looked at me, poked me once or twice and said, no, you are okay. What a relief.
So, what sort of treatment would my friend have to undergo? Nothing complicated. The sinseh just asked him to blow into a tube connected to a coconut shell that covered some mysterious Chinese herbs (a trademark secret, I suppose) spitting on a very hot clay plate that he had just removed from a stove.
"Blow as hard as you can into the tube," he said. Dutifully, Derek blew as hard as he could: once, twice, thrice. The whole process was repeated seven or eight times until we could see white, thready stuff, maybe about eight to 12 millimetres long, deposited on the hot plates. "That's the worms," the sinseh muttered as I went in to photograph the icky stuff. Methinks they were attracted by the smoke or were knocked out by the fumes.
Either way, Derek will be coming back for consecutive daily treatments in the next few days. The sinseh said that my friend would have to clear his head of all the "worms" in order to have his sinus problem cured. Come back tomorrow at the same time and no eating eggs or chickens, Teo told Derek as he issued him an appointment card. Gee, imagine that. A small town sinseh who issues appointment cards to his clients. Seeing that he was a chain-smoker, we casually asked whether smoking was okay. No problem, he answered. Yes, we had expected him to say just that!
When I related all this to my wife, she asked me whether or not the sinseh was keeping any treatment detail of his clients.
Whatever for, I replied. He doesn't do anything else. His treatment is all the same. He only needs to do one thing and that's to ask people to blow down the tube. That's all he does. What treatment record does he need to keep, right?
To know about the sinseh's location, click here.