‘You can be healthy and physically fit in old age too’

Abid Nisar, 60, walks to Chakwal from his village, Chak Norang.
Abid Nisar, 60, walks to Chakwal from his village, Chak Norang.

“Baba, are you mad, or can you not afford to pay the fare of a public service van,” call out passersby, villagers and even relatives, as Abid Nasir, 60, walks past them on the Mandra-Chakwal Road every morning.

Mr Nasir, a chemistry teacher by profession, walks 18 kilometres every day from the Chak Norang village where he lives to Chakwal city. Every morning, dressed in trousers, a shirt and a green peak cap, he walks to Chakwal with the armed forces’ parade music playing through his headphones.

When he leaves his village in the morning, he says people around him mock him and laugh at him, but he isn’t offended. “It makes me happy when people laugh at me or mock me because they have a smile on their faces. It makes me happy that they smile for a few moments, because of me; it’s enough for me that I bring smiles to their faces,” he says, in a strong British accent.

Mr Nasir says his 18 kilometre morning walk keeps him healthy. When he reaches Chakwal, he first drinks four glasses of sugarcane juice, after which he picks up a copy of Dawn from a newsstand.

After some shopping, he then heads to the Myers School, one of Chakwal’s best private educational institutions, where his daughter is enrolled. After picking up his daughter, they return to the village on a public service vehicle.

“I walk every day because it’s good for health. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of people here do not have any concept of exercise. They are least concerned about their health,” he explains.

“The prevalent notion here is that a person who touches old age is bound to rot in a cot,” he says. “Here we see old men in villages sitting or lying on cots, puffing hookahs, coughing. But I’m here to challenge this false notion that has been ingrained in us. I want to tell people that a person can be healthy and physically fit even in old age.”

Mr Nasir said his mission is to inspire Pakistanis, particularly the youth, to engage in exercise.

“Most of our citizens are caught up in the problems of blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. These are the product of lives sans walking, or other kids of physical exercise.”

Mr Nasir moved to the United Kingdom at the age of five. He grew up there, studied at Goldsmith College, and then pursued a career as a schoolteacher.

After living in the UK for 50 years, Mr Nasir returned to Pakistan as his infatuation with Pakistani culture and values grew.

He returned from the UK three years ago with a strong sense of patriotism.

He said the Pakistani society’s social values and traditions are very rich. “Our main problem is that our education system is very weak, which forces students into rote-learning. Therefore, we are unable to produce creative minds,” he said.

In addition to his passion for exercise, Mr Nasir is also well-versed in European history, and also acted in plays while he lived in the UK.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2016