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Izzud-Din Pal
Izzud-Din Pal

Lives Lived: Izzud-Din Pal, 88 Add to ...

Husband, father, economist, author. Born in Amritsar, India, on June 22, 1925; died in Montreal, Nov. 3, 2013, of complications from a fall, aged 88.

Izzud-Din Pal cheated death twice. During the bloody 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, he hid under a pile of dead bodies in a train of massacred Muslims. A year later, dying from cholera, he was brought back to life a second time, thanks to then-new intravenous rehydration technology.

Born and raised in Amritsar, India, Din and his family fled to Lahore, Pakistan, during partition. He came to Montreal on a Bronfman scholarship in 1955 via London, where he earned a master’s degree at the London School of Economics.

In 1957, he married the love of his life, Catherine Telik, whom he met in Montreal, and finished his doctorate in economics at McGill University three years later. They had two daughters, Mariam and Salma, and over the next half-century he regularly returned to Pakistan, often with his wife or one of their girls.

In 1961, tired of struggling to raise a family on a McGill lecturer’s salary, Din and Catherine moved to Victoria. Over the next 28 years, he had a distinguished career as a professor of economics and administrator at the University of Victoria. In 1989, two years after his wife’s premature death, Din retired to Montreal, to be closer to his two daughters.

There, he blossomed, writing two academic books and becoming a recognized authority on the economics of Pakistan and Islam. He wrote for several English-language newspapers in Pakistan and, until age 86, was a regular columnist for Pakistan’s largest English daily, Dawn.

Din was the son of a successful lawyer and grew up with a cook, driver and other domestic help. On a 1988 trip to Pakistan, his brother’s household watched with amusement when he insisted on doing his own laundry, meticulously arranging each of his shirts on plastic hangers brought from Canada. After he left Pakistan, he missed the food he grew up with and taught himself to cook. When he visited Lahore, he watched his mother in the kitchen and took detailed notes. He made Pakistani food for his family in Canada every weekend for more than 50 years (and also baked excellent bread and pizza). As a widower, he was a fastidious homemaker who refused to get a cleaning lady until he was 85.

Din was especially supportive of his daughters’ education. A lifelong reader, he instilled in them a love of books. He had high expectations and while he rarely praised his children, he was quietly proud of them. Although not a patient man by nature, he was an attentive father, convincing five-year-old Salma that a dollar bill was as good as 100 pennies, and explaining to 10-year-old Mariam where the wheels on their plane went once they were airborne.

As he aged, Din was frustrated by his failing health. He hated his walker. But he found pleasure in drinking a strong espresso and reading two newspapers a day until the end of his life. In his final years, he missed his wife more than ever and took comfort in the company of his daughters, who were holding his hands when death came calling a third time.

Mariam S. Pal is Izzud-Din’s daughter.

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