Super Subra shows the way


“I’m 84 years old,” answered Subramaniam Palani, as he powers through a repertoire of lifts in his small makeshift gym at the backyard of his home in Seremban.

Replacing the weights back to their original storage spot Subra gathers together some lighter weights to set up a different lift technique so I adjust my position to photograph him.

Subra works on his back lifts and squats. Photograph © Nic Falconer 2020

Subra, is a living example that ‘exercise aids good health’ slowly but surely works through his short sets.

The former airport manager for both Air India and Alitalia trains in his gym three times per week, does some yoga sun salutations in the mornings and walks 45 minutes in the evening – “Exercise not only gives you extra life it gives you extra everything,”he says in-between weights.

Subra opens up his outdoor attached gym at his home. Photograph © Nic Falconer 2020

Subra has done body building since he was 44 years old, winning most consistent body building at NBCA in 1982 then had to adjust slightly after he had a heart bypass of 5 blocks with 3 major blockages at 90 percent and two at 70 percent.

“I think very few people start weightlifting at that age and I was looking like joining my brothers and sisters very quickly, ‘ he remarks, all of whom have passed, ‘but my advice is don’t be shy to do exercise.”

The Malacca born man went to a private school in Muar called St Andrews Continuation school thanks to his mum who pulled him out of the local Tamil school as he was making no headway there, making sacrifices so he could afford to attend the private English speaking school.

Subra Photograph © Nic Falconer 2020

“My mum was a maid, poor and a servant, but very proud and knew I needed a good english education so she made many sacrifices to help me ” said Subra. “She couldn’t afford to pay the private school fees on her own, so from 14 years old I had to work as a ball boy picking up the tennis balls at the local tennis club, earning about $4 a month, which covered the $2 monthly school fees.”

After school Subra worked in Singapore and as a travel agent clerk in Kuala Lumpur before landing the airport managers job with Air India, then Alitalia at Subang airport.

The die-hard gardener, lover of Tamil tunes, former marathon runner, traveller to many countries around the world says that you shouldn’t be shy to exercise and that importantly you’re never too old to start exercising.

“You can be fit until you’re 83 yo and by doing exercise you can avoid some doctors medicines and have a happy healthy life – I’m now 83 years old so let’s see!”


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