To say Iftekhar Kalyar does some heavy lifting might be an understatement.
The 22-year veteran of the Ministry of Highways leads a team that is responsible for the ministry’s assets such as pavement, culverts, equipment storage buildings, salt storage facilities and off-road assets, as well as long-term preservation and replacement programs. Those responsibilities ensure our provincial road network is in tip-top shape, so you and I can travel from point A to point B safely.
“Saskatchewan manages a fairly large transportation network for our land base, and our colder climate is hard on our roads, which makes it difficult to maintain and sustain in good conditions,” Kalyar said. “Our ministry has been fortunate that significant investments have been made in the transportation system in the last decade, although demand continues to grow to preserve the existing network along with building additional twinning and passing lanes.
“My job is to find the balance to provide a safe transportation system for the public and prioritize projects effectively using the asset management principles,” Kalyar said. “This includes preventative maintenance and preservation treatments such as crack sealing, seal coating, micro-surfacing and repaving to get a longer life out of the existing road surface.”
Kalyar also works with the operational staff on the hay and ditch mowing program that ensures long grass is cut along highway ditches. The result should prove a safer journey.
Staying in good physical condition can help mitigate what can be, at times, a stressful position.
“Regular exercise and an active lifestyle help maintain blood sugar, blood pressure, and joints and muscles in good shape. It also helps us deal with stress, depression and mental health issues effectively,” he said.
As a proponent of physical fitness and its benefits, Kalyar believes it helps strike the right balance with work and life.
“I am very lucky that my gym is few minutes away from my office and I can easily fit a good workout during my lunch hour,” Kalyar said. “I feel so much better after a workout, which allows me to be relaxed and come back fresh to work.”
Kalyar joined CrossFit near his office in 2014, citing a desire to stay active over the winter months with the convenience of having something nearby. “Before going to the gym, I used to sit at my desk all day, but I am so glad that I found it because it has helped me stay physically fit.”
Kalyar moved to Regina from Pakistan in 1996 after completing a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. He also completed his master’s degree at the University of Regina in Transportation Engineering before joining the ministry in 1999.
“We didn’t have cell phones, tablets, internet or unlimited tv channels when I was growing up, so playing sports was a good way to spend time. Gyms were not common where I grew up in Pakistan, and playing in the streets and playground for pickup cricket games or other physical activities was a favourite pastime.”
The husband and father of four – ages 17, 16, 14 and 10 – admits staying active has become a family affair.
“My kids have tried different sports, but soccer is the main activity in our house. All my kids still play soccer and participate in leagues. My girls are busy with high school sports and participate in anything that can fit into their schedules, and my wife swims five times a week,” he said.
Kalyar, who has also served as president of the Saskatchewan Cricket Association, will continue to stay active and commit to a healthy lifestyle whether that is going to CrossFit or participating in sports.
“My first passion is cricket, and I am thankful my family allows and supports me in spending a lot of time on the pitch,” he added.
Whether it’s deadlifts, rope climbs, pull-ups, hand-walking or whacking the Kookaburra or golf ball around, it seems Iftekhar Kalyar has discovered a healthy body equals a healthy mind. Thankfully, his energy as well as his experience will continue to benefit the ministry and the people of Saskatchewan.