DUA telur setengah masak dan satu kopi-o, kurang manis.
This is one phrase that first-time visitors to our country will find most useful if they truly want to enjoy the real Malaysia.
My breakfast menu, in my growing-up years, was exactly that – two half-boiled eggs and a cup of kopi-o (black coffee). I would crack the eggs into a saucer, add the soya sauce and a dash of pepper. After gulping it down, it was tradition to pour the coffee onto the saucer and drink the coffee from there.
The eggs were guaranteed fresh because they came from the chickens we raised in our backyard.
As a kid, it never occurred to me that it took some skill to make sure the eggs were cooked correctly.
My mother or my sisters just poured boiling water into a mug and somehow they instinctively knew when to remove the eggs.
There was no such thing as a half-boiled egg maker at that time.
And then the Newton egg maker came along.
Thanks to the Metro section of this newspaper, (“A half-boiled idea pays off,” The Star, Nov 13), I now know about the man who created this marvellous invention.
Datuk Hew Ah Kow is an amazing man with many an amazing story to tell. As a young man working as a bulldozer operator in the jungles of Kelantan in 1973, he was entrusted to prepare breakfast for the crew.
He used a simple Ovaltine tin to work out the right volume of water to go with the right number of eggs, and how to make the water flow out at the correct speed.
Over a year, his colleagues had to bear the brunt of his failed experiments when the eggs came out either too soft or too hard.
But he got it right eventually. By a twist of fate, a direct-selling agent took shelter in their camp because of a storm and was impressed with the contraption.
And he was honest enough to buy Hew’s idea for RM7,000 (surely a princely sum in those days to a young bulldozer operator) and re-marketed it in the trademark yellow and white plastic gadget that was the Newton egg maker.
Reading Hew’s story, one must admire his perseverance in coming up with the perfect egg maker, and also many other interesting inventions that have paid good dividends throughout his life.
The late Tan Sri Dr Noordin Sopiee, who was my boss at one time, used to say that while it may appear unfair that some countries are blessed with valuable resources below their feet (like gold, oil and gas), God is very fair because there is always equal distribution of what we have between our ears (meaning our brains).
Creativity cannot be stifled by geographic boundaries, nor by one’s status in life or academic credentials.
Hew only studied up to the primary level, but his academic limitations were never an obstacle. He simply made good use of his thinking skills to solve problems.
Unfortunately, today most of us rely on others to solve our problems. Which is why political leaders and captains of industry are willing to pay lots of money to consultants to figure out solutions to their challenges.
Which is well and good, except it does mean that for some of us, the brain power we are blessed with may well be under-utilised.
I have resolved that the next time I have a conundrum to figure out, I will try working through it with my own brain capacity. I am confident I can do it – I just have to think like Hew.
Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin finalised this column after a nice walk on a lovely stretch of beach in Port Dickson, where he went with his better half to celebrate her birthday. The views expressed are entirely the writer's own. The STAR Sunday Starters December 7, 2014