Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Angksawan Conundrums

The idea to picture Sheikh Muszaphar playing marbles was something I thought up after leafing through the hundreds of shots of him on the Net and in The Star archives.

"Marbles?! No one plays marbles anymore nowadays yunno. Are you sure?!" questions this spaceman incredulously.

He did try to give me some alternatives. What about a gym shot, he suggests.

Me thinks, not advisable unless one has a washboard physique like Memet...

Or a pic of him at the spa having a massage, he tries again.

Me thinks,too messy...

Or him on a big bike?

Already did that with Tony Eusoff, dear.

Or we could go to a shop buy some Star Wars memorabilia and pose with them?

Again, this guy must really have a big bank account and fierce contacts to think that collectors' stuff can appear with a snap of his fingers...

Sorry no go to everything, I says in very, very polite terms.

Frankly, it was one of those days. I was still recovering from a bout of flu and he had just driven all the way from Kelantan. I was bushed and I suspected he too was not exactly in hyper mode either.

But off we went to play marbles (supplied by me)at the back kitchen of Rebung where two cocks, a hen and one cat also joined in . To entice the cock to come into the picture, Normah, the Rebung chef, tossed roasted peanuts around our bloke.

And herein, Sheikh actually showed off how he could still work a shoot by looking good despite the blazing sun, whiffs of chick poo and raining peanuts.

Thanks to all for the great time.To our willing model, my eternal gratefulness.

Here's the article that came out:

Coping With Fame

IT IS 10am and Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie, the first Malaysian to go to space, turns up in a white cocktail jacket and pin-striped slacks at Rebung, the restaurant he co-owns with celebrity chef Ismail Ahmad.

Ordering a teh tarik, the 36-year-old bachelor confessed that he was not the t-shirt-slippers-and-shorts type, not even when it’s a quick trip to the 7-11.

“You never know when someone wants to have a picture taken with you,” said Muszaphar, who explained that since his return from the International Space Station, the public spotlight has been relentless.

The extent of Muszaphar’s ‘dress down’ days at present go only as far as jeans and collared t-shirts. Nevertheless, our spaceman said he had no problems with smiling (for the cameras, that is).

Work-oriented: Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al-Masrie conducted scientific experiments in space.

“I used to model, you know. I can give the same smile even after the 200th picture,” he said. As a model, Muszaphar graced numerous magazine covers.

A qualified medical doctor who earned his degree from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India, Muszaphar added that smiling was, after all, a good thing.

“A smile warms up a place immediately,” he said. Muszaphar believes that a happy persona goes a long way in making his home planet a better place.

It has been eight months since this former university medical officer’s return from space and as far as his schedule is concerned, friends and staff alike have described it as very, very busy.

Chef Ismail Ahmad does not mince words, describing Muszaphar’s timetable as “crazy”.

“I have reached out to over 100 schools, universities and colleges. In addition to sharing my experiences in space, I motivate youth by telling them to study hard so that their dreams will become reality,” said Muszaphar, who revealed that his own dream for space travel had taken 25 years to come true.

Sundays for this Leo means running the mill of autograph signing sessions and facing crowds of young people who, in his own words, have a tendency to “go wild”.

Speaking from the heart, Muszaphar also takes this opportunity to dispel notions that he had merely gone on a space holiday.

The trip, he explained, was a scientific mission to conduct experiments on liver cancer and leukaemia cells and protein crystallisation, in this case, lipases, a type of fat-breaking enzyme.

“Micro gravity conditions will enable us to see the molecular structure in its whole instead of a flat cell. This will enable us to study the structure of the cell thoroughly,” explained Muszaphar.

As for rest and relaxation, this busy bee confessed that he would give the world for a scuba diving trip, a favourite pastime of his which he has not had time for in the last one and half years.

Nevertheless, this music lover with a penchant for slow sentimental numbers and rock ballads from bands like Scorpions, Bon Jovi and Roxette did manage to catch the Celine Dion concert when the diva hit town recently.

His pride and joy without doubt is his collection of Star Wars memorabilia which includes figurines of Darth Vader, C3PO and his movie hero, Luke Skywalker.

“I used to imagine being Skywalker and engaging in light saber duels with my brothers,” said Muszaphar, the third of five boys.

Any mention of his brothers brings back memories of the fun times they had growing up in Seremban.

“We played football, went swimming and played marbles. I would beat them at all the games because a game to me was everything. I played to win. Sometimes, I think my brothers let me win because I’d keep bugging them for a rematch when I lost,” recalled Muszaphar.

When the family returned to their father’s hometown in Batu Satu, Port Dickson, a young Muszaphar would go looking for frogs to dissect or when the occasion called for it, catch chickens from behind the house which he would then slaughter for dinner.

“I was never squeamish about blood,” said Muszaphar.

As for days of wild youthful abandon, this mild-mannered doctor, who goes bungee jumping on a regular basis, revealed that during his student days in India he used to hang onto the hood of a speeding car!

“That, my parents didn’t know about,” he said.

But as boisterous as the Al Masrie boys were, Muszaphar recalled how his parents, Datuk Sheikh Mustapha, a housing developer, and Datin Zuraida, a homemaker, had kept a strict rein on them.

Muszaphar said that he was the only child to argue with his father, now a 72-year-old who still goes to the gym twice a week.

“My father would tell me one thing and I would do the complete opposite. When I was a teenager, it was always his way and how he wanted things to be done. But I would reason with him that it was my life and that I should learn from my mistakes,” said Muszaphar.

But he reckons that he would not be where he is without his father’s guidance.

“My father was into developing mind control as he believed in the Silva Method which is based on the knowledge that how you think, believe and behave dictates your life experience.

“By making simple, positive changes, you can live a powerful life of your own design. All five of us attended the course as my father was lecturing for the organisers at that time,” he said.

As for what the future holds, Muszaphar admitted that he would very much like to go back to the academic life.

He has since resumed his masters in orthopaedic surgery which was interrupted when he joined the ‘Angkasawan’ programme.

But at the moment, he is revelling in the attention.

“I don’t see myself crawling into some hole and hiding from the glare of publicity.

“As the third child, I was always craving attention, especially from my father. That is why, I think, I excelled in my studies and did well in so many things,” he said