What my 63-year-old boss taught me

Published: January 22, 2013

I believe it is imperative for us to start maintaining our health from an early age. PHOTO: REUTERS

Meet Keith Brown, a 63-year-old manager working in my company. Keith has recently moved to UAE to work as an Engineering Facilities Manager at McDermott Middle East Inc.

I have known him since May 2012, when we started playing field hockey.

I was astonished to know that a 63-year-old could play field hockey because this is one of the most physically demanding sports!

A feat like this would be extremely rare in countries like Pakistan, India and UAE. It’s a pity that many of our grand fathers (or even fathers) are unable to even walk properly when they are as young as 50.

For a long time, I did not play any sport consistently and when I started playing hockey, I often got tired very quickly. I was surprised to see myself resting while this old man continued to play; it embarrassed me, quite frankly! Although, I didn’t mention this in my last blog, this was also a factor which made me anxious to become fit and healthy.

Photo: Muhammad Irfan

I think this was a hard lesson for me because of two reasons, i.e., I am young and my religion Islam highly prioritises health. Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to ask Keith Brown about his lifestyle, and how has he been able to maintain the health which has kept him active even at 60. Here is what he had to say (paraphrased and summarised):

“Being active and playing hockey at the age of 63 is due to a lifelong process. I have been extremely energetic since my school days. I used to be a part of numerous school teams for sports such as rugby, cricket and athletics. I started hockey also when I finished high school. Ever since, I have pursued sports as one of my priorities in daily life

However, the influential factor is not only physical activities. Rather, other activities in which we utilise our time also play a major role. I have a big problem dealing with people who watch TV excessively. Even now, when TV has become so attractive, we (my family and I) barely watch TV. Instead, we prefer to use our time for productive things such as reading. My usual schedule before work is around 30 minutes of ‘Tai Chi’, around 20 minutes of reading and when the sun is up, I am out in the park with my son for a ball. This is my relaxing process before work to get myself up and running for the day.

I don’t have a fixed diet plan. Fortunately, I love eating fish and chicken, and I snack on an average of five fruits a day. But I am a strong believer of moderation. Although I rigidly avoid fatty foods, I pound on them occasionally.

To summarise, it is essential for us take care of ourselves. Playing hockey and other activities mentioned above are all part of me taking care of myself. I find pleasure in playing hockey because it gives me an opportunity to socialise with others, and encourage young people like you (Muhammad Irfan) to understand that life does carry on even after you’re 60 years old.”


Photo: Muhammad Irfan


These were some important words for us from Keith Brown. I believe it is imperative for us to start maintaining our health from youth. I say this from the bottom of my heart because while my manager, who is the same age as my father (53), hits the gym every morning for an hour, my father just recently had a bypass surgery.

I have worked with at least three other 60+ people lately, and was astonished by their healthy lifestyle. One of them was a 70-year-old British man who used to walk along with me for miles in our construction yard. While walking, I usually had to stop him for a break because I used to get exhausted! He, however, just marched on, without any hint of being tired.

My father’s surgery and me getting tired so easily has really awakened me to get my health sorted out. Rather than carrying a load of medicines in the future, I would rather prefer to do a little hard work now and enjoy a better life at present and in my later years!

Read more by Muhammad here.

Muhammad Irfan

Muhammad Irfan

A structural engineer working in an oil and gas company in Dubai, UAE. He is originally from Karachi, Pakistan and holds a Master's and a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the American University of Sharjah in Sharjah, UAE

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Kashif Farooqui

    Well you suddenly brought Islam as a reason to be healthy. Can we do anything without dragging religion into it.? I have many Western friends and they stay healthy and fit because it is the way of life for them to be healthy and they never brought Christianity but my fellow Pakistanis love to drag religion into everything. I hope someday we would drag religion when we would be lying, cheating, talking behind the back or abusing heavily so that the world would be a better place to live in.Recommend

  • Dr. Shahnawaz Khan

    Agree with Keith on the TV.

    99% of the TV in Pakistan, India, mid-east (and around the world) is crap. Even those programs hiding behind the guise of news and current affairs are just dogfight shows and an utter waste of time.

    However, for some it might be hard to set a strict dietary regiment when desi housewives are cooking on a limited budget or limited variety, and all classes of society in Pakistan splurge all they can on weddings and other events which become food centric.Recommend

  • uk muslim

    @Kashif Farooqui
    you might be surprised to know… because the religion emphasizes, i brush my teeth daily, take shower daily (using soap and shampoo/conditioner), wear clean and washed clothes daily. the religion teaches to keep your house tidy. none of other religions do that. i am so proud of my religion.Recommend

  • Akshay, India

    @uk muslim : You have made a sweeping comment – “none of other religions do that” – which is factually incorrect since Hindu religion emphasises cleanliness and personal hygiene. Secondly, you don’t need religion to tell you things that are matter of common sense. By your weird logic, atheists and “other religion” people would not be taking bath or brushing their teeth. There is no need to unnecessarily bring religion into everything. Cheers!Recommend

  • Zamir Cheema

    @ukMuslim You know i am a Pakistani living in Germany and I have seen recently a surge of Tableeghis from Pakistan into Germany especially in Aachen, Magdeburg and in Baden Wuttengerg in general and there is nothing wrong in it. But what is really happening that they are living in Germany but for them this is the worst country to live in ( hypocricy ). Now even they are questioning Germans about their life style. In small German companies like mine are not considering Pakistanis anymore because one of my colleagues is my compatriot and he is a tableeghi and he taunts German colleagues in indirect manner when they drink, also throughout the day he try to convince them that we Muslims are the greatest and we are Proud of our religion and My colleagues hate his Proselytizing efforts on work. But now thanks to his efforts to bring religion into everything that company always consider Spanish, Portugese or East European or even Arabs compared to Pakistanis and Your comment is a perfect example that the above article is an article about Health but you are talking about Religion and convincing people that Your religion is great and you are proud and all others are uncivilized bunch of people and nothing else.Recommend

  • Pessimist

    Kashif Farooqi:
    I hope someday we would drag religion when we would be lying, cheating, talking behind the back or abusing heavily so that the world would be a better place to live in.

    Isn’t that already happening? People are using religion to settle feuds e.g. blasphemy laws
    However I do agree with your sentiment about religion, why did you bring it up Mr. Irfan? Your article is nice, but that does spoil things up a bit!

    What do people think Christianity teaches? That people should get fat and load up on coke? Do you not know that ‘Glutony’ is one of the Seven Deadly Sins? I also must add, it seems you need to interact a lot more with Westerners. They are not the immoral, non-believing, drunkards that our Maulvis claim they are.
    We can learn a lot more from them!

    One last point and it’s not directed at you but a general observation. Do you exercise and stay healthy because your religion told you to do so or because it is beneficial for you? If you follow religion blindly without question or logic, then you are nothing more than a puppet, who can be easily manipulated, which is an easy thing to do in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Pessimist

    For Akshay, India:

    That was sarcasm from uk muslim. :)Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    @uk muslim:

    because the religion emphasizes, i
    brush my teeth daily, take shower
    daily (using soap and
    shampoo/conditioner), wear clean and
    washed clothes daily. the religion
    teaches to keep your house tidy

    FYKI, rest of the world doesn’t need religion to tell them to brush, bathe etc.Recommend

  • syed qamer

    I think its important to exercise and eat healthy foods. In the west its part of the culture.
    It wasnt so a few years ago because people started noticing that there were a lot of obese people around.
    This led to study on diets and exercise. Now you will see lots of people exercising all over America.
    To connect Islam and exercise is just ridiculous. Recommend

  • hobbit

    @muhammad irfan
    @uk muslim
    seriously..i don’t understand why people need to bring religion into everything…even regarding something as simple as staying ‘healthy and fit’!??!Recommend

  • http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1695142/ayesha_pervez.html Ayesha Pervez

    Awwww lovely… your boss sounds like a really nice person! :)Recommend

  • Hafeez

    Nice post. However, it is not just the Brits, in most of the western countries you will see old people quite healthy. The reason is access to facilities such as parks, grounds and gyms everywhere. Pakistan is a different story. Parks and grounds or places to exercise are rare.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Frankly I found nothing interesting in this blog. Even the reference to religion was banal and unnecessary.Recommend

  • http://Kausarbilal.com Kausar Bilal

    A very inspirational post that motivated me to join my gym routine again, that has been discontinued for various reasons. Thanks for sharing a wonderful post like this.Recommend

  • Ahsan Shahzad

    @Kashif Farooqui:
    How do you know that he is dishonest, lair, cheater, back biter?
    Why the hell people like you get so much annoyed just by listening the word: “Religion”??
    If he is allowed to say what he wants then what is the problem to listen the word “Religion”?
    For guys like you, the most cheerful word usually is “Sex”, isn’t it?

    Get some life dude! I am not very religious but it is annoying to see you pin pointing “Religion” word in hundreds of his words. Ridiculous! Recommend

  • Kashif Farooqui

    @Ahsan Shahzad: I was talking about the Pakistanis in general and no way i was referring to the above guy. I have been cheated and deceived by my fellow Pakistanis so much that now I remind everyone that rather than saying that we are proud of our religion we should implement its good points in our daily life. The lying, cheating and stuff was mentioned because in Pakistan you cannot took a step without these things and it is a generalized statement for every Pakistani that our religion is against it so why not talk about them first. Recommend

  • http://asadpiracha.blogspot.com Asad Ur Rehman

    A bunch of Pakistani and Indians derail every post from its context and drag it into either religious or cultural or ethnic debate. Please use this space for the purpose it is meant to be and carry your debates somewhere else.Recommend

  • Muhammad Irfan


    Thank you very much for your kind feedback.

    I would humbly like to clarify that no where in this blog have I claimed that only Islam teaches us to be healthy and I have never said that non muslims are not fit and healthy. Infact, if you put aside America, majority of non muslims are much fitter and healthier than us muslims. As a matter of fact, this blog is also about a Non-Muslim.

    As far as dragging religion is concerned, If this is a free space to write on, It is only my freedom of speech which allows me to write about my religion. As long as I’m not negating other religions or provoking any hate, I believe I can write about my religion.

    I only wanted to express my concern about what we, as muslims, are missing out by not following the important teachings of our religion.

    Hope this clarifies and I appologize for any offense to anyone from this piece

    Best Regards Recommend

  • Khokrapar

    I have a gym membership but do not go regularly, but you have inspired me therefore I’m going to hit gym today :-) thanksRecommend

  • Naila

    Go do some research you arrogant person Recommend

  • SK

    really nice blog! thumbs up! Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Muhammad Irfan:
    You haven’t got the point. When you speak about your religion in a public forum, you also need to be prepared to accept criticism for doing so.

    Regarding the subject of the blog, I agree with you completely. People from the West are self-motivated to stay healthy, and the importance of sports and athletics (for both sexes) as well as eating healthy is inculcated from an early age; they are also more self-reliant, probably also driven by the high cost of labor and small family sizes (although this is true for immigrants as well). My CTO started working in 1977, which is around when I was born – he cycles ~120 km a week and takes his bike with him on holiday so that he can do some mountain biking if the location is suitable (he was heart-broken after the recent Lance Armstrong imbroglio). On eating habits, while we Indians eat a lot of greens, I find the food choices and eating patterns here (I live in Europe) are much healthier, although rather tasteless to my cast-iron taste buds and hence far less attractive :).Recommend

  • FGKH

    Especially @ Kashif Farooqi;

    My question is after reviewing the blog who would you hold responsible for involving religion in any matter. Do you opt for the writer or Mr farooqi?
    Really people like you would always try to identify negativeness in any walk of life rather focusing on the positive aspect.

    As for Pakistan. If its doesn’t suits you go some where else and if not then start taking some actions in improving the system, mere objections or highlighting issues wouldn’t help.

    Do focus on your health it will keep you energetic. Pakistan is in need of some enthusiastic persons you can become a part of it.Recommend

  • Sheikh Ali Tariq

    @ kashif Farooqui

    One could have easily used the above blog to explain how a practicing muslim can learn good things from anyone and anywhere in the world.

    Regarding Pakistanis being cheats. I just want to tell you that you will find thugs, cheats and other bad stuff all over the world so why generalize it to Pakistan only? You could also generalize this to the whole world.

    Does that mean that we should leave the world and settle somewhere else maybe Mars!? eh?

    @ Muhammad Irfan

    I would like to say that you did a great job by writing this piece; it demonstrates the human spirit and the ability of people to relate to each other regardless of religion and ethnicity. Recommend

  • Saad

    Nice effort – but dragging religion into it was unncessaryRecommend

  • shocked (former) pakistani

    The non muslims and hypocrites will always get disturbed whenever the name of Islam is mentioned. This is a psychological effect of not following the truth, you do not want to hear about it at all. Islam unlike other religions is a complete way of life and code of conduct for all human beings and for whole countries as well. Islam tells about the day to day manners, cleanliness, etc at an individual level. Islam also tells about economics, law, jurrisprudence, inheritence, constitution of countries, etc at a macro level. It is a complete way of life which Islam has and no other religion encompasses. The reason is that Islam is the only divine truth and other religions are man made or man tampered. enjoy your bliss for a while and when we are resurrected, all will submit to the one true God, though it will be too late for the deniers in this world. Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Muhammad Irfan:
    I am young and my religion Islam highly priorities health.
    As far as dragging religion is concerned, If this is a free space to write on, It is only my freedom of speech which allows me to write about my religion.

    You got inspired by watching a Christian playing hockey. You did not start playing hockey because of Islam. You were a Muslim before you started playing hockey. It seems like you were not aware “Islam priorities health”. According to you, most followers of Islam are not much into health and fitness.

    Yes, you have “freedom of speech”, go write a blog on Islam but don’t mislead people.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    People who think that it is religion that teaches them hygiene need to get their head checked. It is not religion but basic common sense that is present with every human. I agree with others that it is a great story and a great message but dragging religion into it was utterly useless.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @shocked (former) pakistani:
    Whatever works for you dude. As per my system, you could end up as a worm in the next life – to each his own. Enjoy!Recommend

  • http://Avidrunner Ahsan

    Not mixing religion where it’s not need is the need of the time for Pakistanis.

    The main difference in being healthy between Pakistani or south Asian and western (I am living in US) life style is about your eating habits, we Pakistani eat lot of fried and sugary things, that makes you lazy which contributes not having a desire to exercising.

    One other I like the best in the US, is about their dinner time early around 6/6:30 at the most,
    this helps digest the food before you sleep, and this change alone can make a whole lot of difference in being healthy.

    I have been running Marathons for few years now, I can assure you that eating healthy is a key in staying in shape, yes, you can do a lot of workout to burn those calories but you need to have something that’s sustainable, and working out a lot is not something you will be able to sustain if you dont eat healthy.Recommend

  • Rehan

    So what if he mentioned religion? How does that effect this piece or the motivation individuals are to receive from this post? Kashif Farooqui set the tone by going on a rant without providing any substance and from my point of view, all he did was let out his personal hate for religion out.

    It gave Mohammad Irfan a reason to work harder, to keep fitter and I am sure that small area would no doubt influence those who work their life around religion. Those individuals who might not want to work out, might not want to take part in sport but as soon as they realise that it is the way of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), they would be more than willing to take part. There is nothing wrong with using religion as a basis of appealing to a wider majority. For example, my sister uses my home-made gym to keep fit after I told her a hadith regarding how Hazrat Aisha (RA) and the Prophet (PBUH) had a race alone.

    I think it is necessary to involve religion in a lot of cases to separate cultural thoughts from religious thoughts. I mean you go into rural Punjab and they would all say “no girls cannot train! How dare you say that!” whereas it is the sunnah of Hazrat Aisha (RA) so I don’t see any harm in Mohammad Irfan having been motivated by the fact that Islam prefers health, activity and cleanliness. He didn’t criticise any religion, he didn’t downgrade any religion, rather he used an example of someone who Is not a muslim.

    I really don’t see where most people on here gained the justification to criticise the post on religious terms. It was a mere one word that would have influenced those who might not want to work out but knowing that the Prophet trained, kept fit and healthy would do so simply on that basis. That is not to say that everyone else cannot gain motivation or influence from other sources or to say that because others aren’t muslim they aren’t as fit. It is simply a matter of looking up to those who are our ideals and considering this is a pakistani forum, where the majority is of muslims, and would have a large muslim audience, he has every right to say that. Some very poor, unjustified and substantiated comments on here. Recommend

  • Ahsan Shahzad

    Hay, what kind of criticism?? Was this blog post about Religion?? No!!!
    If you got reasons to criticize any religion just because a write has told his point of view keeping his religion in his mind, then dude believe me you got to change alot in yourself!

    A clear and really logical point for you and other guys like you is that this post was NoT related to any religion but it was just a reference of a religion that Is correct. If you want to criticise that reference then logical way is to prove that reference is wrong or Islam as a religion don’t ask you to remain clean. Isn’t it??

    If you still want to criticize in unhealthy way then better find some other forum.Recommend

  • Ahsan Shahzad

    @Kashif Farooqui:
    Mr. Kashif Farooqui, I respect what you feel and i respect what you said. But i am sorry that it do not match with the voltage you gained while writing following starting lines of your first comment:

    “Well you suddenly brought Islam as a reason to be healthy. Can we do anything without dragging religion into it.? ”

    We can not tell any writer what to drag in and what not. If you are reading someone then you have full right to counter argue but with some proper logic. If someone is writing anything wrong that is misleading then just say it.

    If a writer has just explained his point in a good way and he thought to empower his point with religious point of view as well then What Was The Wrong Thing In It???

    And just to clarify you one thing more and it is just because You talked about it. Islam is a way of life (i started to be boring for you, right?? i was expecting!) so it is every where in every Muslim’s life. It starts from your day start till day end, if you really understand what is meaning of Islam.

    I am sorry if you got heart because of any of my words. I tried to tell you what i felt as per my “freedom of speech” right.Recommend

  • Ahsan Shahzad

    Mr. Insaan. What was misleading in it?? Recommend

  • Mohammad Zain

    Wasn’t the blog about staying healthy?? :p :p
    Most of the comments suggest otherwise :pRecommend

  • Baba Ji

    wasn’t he talking about health ? oh and BTW muslim or what, we Pakistanis are a dirty unhygienic qoum … devoid of any basic health etiquettes … no more discussion on this …Recommend

  • Historian 1

    Westerners ( particularly whites) continue exercising and sports throughout their lifetime. Gyms, swimming, jogging, indoor and outdoor sports are an integral part of their lives unlike Asians. Recommend

  • wat da eff

    OMG this was about HEALTH people !! stop arguing over religion now ….
    religion religion religion everywhere…DUHRecommend

  • Insaan

    @Sheikh Ali Tariq: “One could have easily used the above blog to explain how a practicing muslim can learn good things from anyone and anywhere in the world.”

    How do you define a practicing Muslim? Why can’t a non-practicing Muslim learn good things from any one and anywhere in the world? Do you think talibans and Mullahs are practicing Muslims?

    How about saying “any one can learn good things from anyone and anywhere in the world.” Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Ahsan Shahzad: Islam is a way of life

    Pakistan is 97% Muslims. So what ever is happening in Pakistan reflects what Islam is.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Ahsan: “I can assure you that eating healthy is a key in staying in shape”

    Eating healthy may vary from person to person. You need to have balanced diet good enough to give you calories and proteins you need.

    The world’s oldest marathon runner will to call time on marathons after completing the 10-kilometre race at next month’s Hong Kong Marathon.

    India-born Fauja Singh, who is now a British national, is 101 years old. Known as the ‘Turbaned Torpedo’, he even took part in the recent Mumbai Marathon and will retire from competitive running after crossing the finishing line on 24 February.

    In October 2011, Fauja Singh, aged 100, became the world’s oldest runner to complete a marathon when he finished the Toronto Waterfront event. However, the Guinness World Records organisation has refused to accept him as the world’s oldest marathon runner as he could not provide it with a birth certificate.Recommend

  • Muslim Nike

    If Muslims Just Do It – Without mentioning Islam – Islam Will Be Stronger!


    Muslims 1000 years ago, Just Did It – Hence Islam Was Accepted as the Truth.

    Today Muslims explicitly advertise their Deen – This is not the ideal.

    Just Do It!Recommend

  • Insaan

    @uk muslim: using soap and shampoo/conditioner

    Are you sure you can use soap and shampoo/conditioner? There may be animal fats used in these things. All soaps should be approved by Islamic scholars.Recommend

  • Muhammad Irfan


    Bro ,,Thankyou very much for telling us about Mr. Fauja Singh…read about him…absolutely mind blowing achievement…

    LOL – Fauja Singh says this at the age of 101 “Age has taken a toll on me so I would retire after the HongKong race” …Recommend

  • A Muslim

    The worst thing that happened to Islam was that it was spread in the Indian Subcontinent. No one can do damage to the image of this great Deen like these “Muslims”. I have observed the so called devout Muslims from Subcontinent and more often than not they are unkempt, dressed in Arab or Indian clothes (they consider this Islamic) and smelling of last night’s biryani.

    Pakistanis are not welcomed anywhere in the civilized world. Indians and Bangladeshis will soon be there because regardless of their faith, their appearance and demeanor is not considered acceptable.

    So this article was a good one but the writer spoiled it by bringing religion into it. If you think about it, he is saying that the white guy is healthy because he used common sense and the Paki is trying to be healthy because some religious dogma (probably hadith based) tells him to do the same i.e. he is not smart enough to figure out that being healthy is a good thing unless some made up story from some book compiled who knows when tells him to do so.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @A Muslim: I have observed the so called devout Muslims from Subcontinent and more often than not they are unkempt, dressed in Arab or Indian clothes (they consider this Islamic) and smelling of last night’s biryani.

    You think dressing in burqa is a way to go. What does Quran say about how Muslims should dress? You think it is OK to carry dead meat inside the alimentary canal but biryani smell is disguting.Recommend