By Eric Chong, cartoon by Billy Tan
My cousin, Joshua, was happily riding his motorcycle
to school. Happily because he had just gotten his motorbike license, and
happier still because his girlfriend was hanging tightly for her dear life
behind him. Yep, he sure couldnt wipe that smirk on his face even if
you slapped him silly.
As he was weaving out to overtake a slow moving
trishaw still with that smirk of his, a bus suddenly loomed from out of a
junction. It was the only then that the muscle that pulled his lips up to
a smirk lost its strength. Down came that silly smirk of his, and down he
and his pillion rider went. His pillion rider was thrown clear and being
the long-haired one, she had more than enough hands picking her up. She was
quite stunned both because of her broken arm and also because of all the
attention she was getting. She was duly sent to the hospital. Meanwhile,
the passersby helped to pick up the motorbike which was half pinned under
the bus. At this time the trishaw rider was scratching his head and saying
that he could have sworn that there were two riders on that motorbike. Where
was this cousin of mine?
He could hear all the commotion going on out there
in the bright sunlight. He didnt feel any pain at all. He could smell
the diesel fumes. He could also make out the rear axle of the bus. But, he
couldnt move his mouth. Maybe this was Gods punishment for smirking
so much earlier on. As much as he tried to say something, not a syllable
came out. His mouth just couldnt move. Nobody had noticed him sliding
under the bus and being pinned under the axle.
Half an hour had gone by before the realization
sank into the trishaw rider that there was a foolish looking boy, whose face
looked as though it were etched with a permanent smile, missing. The trishaw
rider had been too engrossed with the more eye-pleasing casualty to have
remembered anything else until she was sent to the hospital. When he realized
that there was yet another rider, the bus driver was ready to drive his bus
out to make way for the traffic. As the trishaw bent down to look for my
now unsmiling cousin, the bus lurched forward as it was put into gear. Two
ear-piercing shouts were heard over the roar of the engine. Luckily the bus
driver had the peace of mind to kill his engine. As the trishaw driver muttered
incoherently in his Hokkien mother tongue, the bus driver looked to where
the trishaw rider was pointing.
Whether my cousins leg was broken before the
bus lurched forward or not, nobody knows. But, everyone could sure tell that
there was something broken after the yell. Moaning and groaning on top of
his lungs, he could make out a dozen or so pairs of upside down eyes peering
down on him. The crowd gingerly jacked up the bus and sent him to the hospital.
With the amount of moaning and groaning that my cousin made, nobody could
differentiate that with the sirens nor could anyone say which was
At the hospital, they set his shin (fibula) bone
back. It was broken at two places. Three months later when the cast was taken
off, only one part of his shin bone set correctly. The other broken part
had calcified in such a way that made that leg an inch shorter that the other.
That worried his father no end. His son didnt seem as bothered because
of all the attention he was getting especially from his long-haired counterparts.
This was when the father decided to seek the help
of a Langkawian witch doctor or known locally as the bomoh. Those
days the bomoh used to live near Padang Matsirat. They were known as bomohs
because some people believed that they had supernatural powers. Some even
believed that they derived their powers from keeping spirits. Such was the
belief of this Bomoh.
During the first treatment, the bomoh applied some
warm concoction onto Joshuas shin. Then he preceded to massage the
leg with increasing pressure. With the increased pressure, the patient also
started to feel the warmth of both his sweat and tears. After two hours of
massage, he asked Joshua to walk like normal. Naturally, after that session,
he was still hurting and he hobbled around not daring to test his leg. The
Bomoh asked him to return after 3 days.
As in keeping with tradition, the father presented
the bomoh with a small gift. Bomohs believe that they can only use
their gifts to help people not more making a profit. Once they abuse their
powers by charging fees, they will lose their gifts. As such, it is my opinion
that he derives his kicks from seeing how high a decibel he can make his
patients aspire to.
When he went back, we measure his leg and found
that it was of the same length. What the bomoh must have done was to break
the calcified part and reset the bone to the correct length. We could not
come up with any other explanation.
A day after the pain to the massage subsided, the
cousin of mine was up at the Batu Ara rock waving to us when we came back
from a fishing trip. We could see him jumping around with my other female
cousins. It was as though he never had a limp. He was laughing and jumping
so much until he fell off the rock. We all thought that he would have broken
his leg all over again, but no, he was up and jumping.
The second treatment was more or less a check by
the bomoh to see if the bone had healed back. After giving my cousin the
thumbs up, he went on his merry way albeit a bit more careful on his motorbike.
The question is how did the bomoh do what he did
when the hospital with all its sophisticated equipment couldnt. How
does it actually work? Is there any explanation for it?
Many years after, I had the opportunity to study
sports massage and this is what I learnt.
Most of the traditional massage cause more pain
than what the person is experiencing before the treatment. Why does the
traditional method hurt so much?
Traditional massage is what most English speaking
people know as acu-pressure acute pressure. In this method of massage,
pressure is applied at certain parts of the body. The traditional masseurs
say that there is wind or angin in our body. By applying pressure
on a particular part of the body, the traditional masseurs says that they
help the angin to dissipate.
Science has shown us that when acute pressure is
applied to certain parts of the body, our pain receptors are triggered off
which in turn releases a type of hormone called endorphins. Endorphins are
our bodies natural pain killers similar to morphine. When endorphins
are released, our bodies react to it in the same way as we would to morphine
we go on a high.
In short, traditional massage produces a kind of
high which lingers in our bodies for several hours after the massage. During
this time, our bodies react to the endorphin high in several ways. When endorphin
is released into our blood stream, our bodies react to it by speeding up
our metabolism. This promotes better circulation. With better circulation,
our bodies are able to absorb more oxygen and nutrients needed to repair
the injured cells. At the same time, waste products produced in our bodies
which cause the bruises and swelling are carried out from our system.
This is one of the reasons why massage or physiotherapy
is being recommended more and more after injuries.
How the Bomoh managed to lengthen the leg of this
young man after three months of bobbling around is difficult to explain
scientifically, but if you ask any of the village people, they will be able
to tell you of similar healing powers of the village bomoh.
Whether you believe it or not, bomohs are here and
will keep on healing people where science has failed. Traditional message
worked for this young man with one leg shorter than the other. It is said
that traditional massage works best for people with a high tolerance for
pain. Are you game for a massage?
Most major hotels provide traditional massage services
for those of who want to get rid of that nagging pain or you may just want
to have a relaxing massage.