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Kazim Mehdi Jafri
Writer
--: Biography of Kazim Mehdi Jafri :--

Kazim Mehdi Jafri

Kazim Mehdi Jafri, known to all as Papa, was born in India during the dying days of the British Raj.

At 18, he was selected as an A-Grade cadet to apprentice in the mechanical workshop of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company and started working in Bombay (Mumbai). The first of five boys born to his father's third wife, he was handed the reins of the family at 19 when his father died of a stroke. As the eldest son, Kazim became the family's patriarch and breadwinner.

He was married by arrangement at 21 to Shakeela and they started a family. In 1947, after the brutal partition of India, the family packed their few belongings and moved to the newly formed country of Pakistan. Soon after, Kazim joined North Western Railway of Pakistan, where he received much respect for his engineering skills. In later years, he took on the role of inspector for the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Kazim and Shakeela raised eight children - Yasmeen, Amir Saulat, Naheed, Ismat, Iffat, Hassan, Narjis Ann and Rizwana - in Pakistan until their move to Canada in 1975.

Kazim's belief in the value of education transcended all barriers. He broke from cultural norms to ensure that his six daughters, along with their brothers, received the highest quality of education. All his daughters entered the teaching profession. At 59, he moved to Canada with his three younger daughters, accompanied by his eldest son and his family, to give them a new beginning and better educational opportunities.

Arriving in Canada, he worked as a security guard until receiving his stationary engineer licence within a year. He worked for Kendall Company of Canada as an operating engineer for nearly eight years until his retirement.

His quest for knowledge and desire to share knowledge defined him. In his retirement years, he took to translating books from English to Urdu, which he penned in his most elegant handwriting. Most recently, his translation of Martin Lings's book Muhammad was published in Toronto. He also chronicled the history of his descendants in India going as far back as the 1600s.

A true engineer, he took great pleasure in fixing things, particularly electronics, and spent many hours repairing whatever he could find. The family often joked that he bought and broke video cameras simply so that he could have the pleasure of fixing them. But he had another agenda: His video camera captured treasured moments at all family events, big or small.

Kazim was a man small in stature, but a giant in the respect he commanded from all. His legacy lives on in his children, 27 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren living in all corners of the world. You are missed by us all, Papa.
Patriarch, engineer, author, role model. Born Feb. 19, 1917, in Betul, India. Died Nov. 13, 2010, in Toronto of skin cancer, aged 93.

 

By Rizwana Jafri, Kazim's daughter.

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