In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. – Abraham Lincoln
THE 16th President of the United States might have said that in the 19th century but the saying still holds true today. And, Pola Singh is a fine example of someone who is making the life in his years count.
You might be familiar with his name as he has written for various publication including The Star, The Edge and Personal Money.
Although he retired about nine years ago, Pola is almost as busy today as he was when he worked in the government.
For 27 years he was with the administrative and diplomatic service where he served in various ministries and departments – Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Primary Industries, Intan (National Institute of Public Administration) as a lecturer and the EPU (Economic Planning Unit) in the PM’s Department, the think tank of the country.
While serving in those various roles, he covered infrastructure, industry and energy. These various roles allowed him to explore and learn about many diverse topics and issues.
He then left the civil service at the age of 50 and went to work for the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta where he headed the IAI (Initiative for Asean Integration).
After four years, Pola returned to Malaysia and served as director-general of the Maritime Institute of Malaysia for two years.
Since then he has done a lot of lecturing at the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations. He lectures on crisis management, energy, global warming, economic crisis, financial crisis and many other topics.
He is now also on the exco of Transparency International Malaysia, which he joined about five years ago.
In addition, he was an office bearer at the Royal Selangor Club and is now on the board of directors of Cetdem (Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia).
“Basically, it’s just to keep myself occupied. Some I joined because I felt I could contribute. TI, I joined because I believed in the cause.
“I have so many things to do. I look at it and think that’s what I want, and I dictate the terms. I decide what I want to do,” says Pola.
Although he has many things to keep him busy, his one true passion is still exercising. As a boy he used to walk across the hill in his hometown in Malacca. Today, his chosen path is in the Bukit Kiara Park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
“If God granted me a wish, I would have wished for a green lung next to my house with all the facilities. God answered my dream. When I bought my house it wasn’t here; it only came a few years ago and I feel so blessed.
“I spend most of my time there instead of being in the hospital waiting to see the doctor and collect my medication.
“I would advise all seniors to keep exercising. Their health is in their own hands, if they do enough to take care of themselves,” says Pola.
He recently had a fall at the park after clashing with a cyclist. Although he thought he was okay, it took him a while to make it down the hill. Luckily for him there were no broken bones. According to his doctor, the injury could have been much worse if his body was not well warmed up.
Pola says keeping fit is what motivates him.
“I think senior citizens have to exercise regularly, which quite a number don’t do. They lead sedentary lives. It’s just like a car that needs servicing; you need to exercise,” says Pola.
He breaks it down to a few components:
Physical exercise – Pola recommends walking to get the heart pumping and to sweat it out. “At our age don’t try to jog or run, walking fast is enough.”
Flexibility – This is where Pola recommends stretching to help with flexibility.
Brain exercise – Read, play crosswords puzzles and Scrabble to keep the mind alive.
Strength – “Fourthly, you need some strength, so you should work out with some light weights to give you the strength which you need,” advises the former Mother Hash runner.
He also advises eating in moderation.
“The saying health is wealth is true. You get up in the morning, and when you’re healthy you feel good. When you do some exercises, you feel the adrenalin and the body releases endorphins which make you feel good and which money cannot buy.
“As opposed to if you have some problem and you spend time thinking about how to recover. I think a lot of senior citizens spend time worrying. They worry and worry and worry about all other things and they will even go to the extent of saying ‘What if?’
“Luckily, I’m very positive. Anything that happens, I will turn it to a positive. It rains but it also shines. God is not that cruel. When you fall, you get up and you know how to avoid that fall in future. All of us will fall and face rejection but we have to think about how we can take it and convert it into something positive,” says Pola.
He cites the example of failure. Instead of lamenting about it, it’s better to learn from the lesson, move on and avoid making the same mistakes.
The husband, father of two and grandfather of two says he feels blessed for everything that he has.
“Happiness is inside me, which nobody can take. I’m glad I’m in my state of health because I worked for it and I think everyone who does these little things about exercise and eating right, will be happy.
“Our time on this Earth is limited. We will die one day. We won’t live forever so for the remaining years of our life why don’t we do things that make us happy while we still can,” says Pola.