Abid Rizvi: Father. Businessman. Pakistani-Canadian. Philanthropist. Born May 12, 1948, in Karachi, Pakistan; died Dec. 26, 2017, in Ajax, Ont., of respiratory failure; aged 69.
I grew up listening to the story of my grandparents’ migration from the northern jungles of India to city life in Pakistan. My father, Abid Rizvi, said his parents lived in a home with an army of domestic help, and in a world where his mother left for evening outings on an elephant and his father could raise lion cubs in his house. But his parents left everything, he would say, “for a new country and better future for their children.”
My father would do the same. Just like his father, he migrated to build a future.
In 1970, Abid was 24 when he left Pakistan for Canada with $100 in his pocket. Although he had been working as an engineer, he had to start from scratch in Canada. He worked odd jobs, went to school at night and drove a taxi during the day. In later years, he would always keep his taxi driver’s license in his wallet as a reminder of his struggle.
Abid was a risk taker by nature and was eventually able to jump into his passion: business. He started by importing TV converters, then selling electronics in a flea market. He opened several Rizvi’s Electronics retail stores, followed by a (Rizvi’s) Home Hardware. Then he began home renovations and ended his career having built million-dollar homes from the ground up. Abid had his share of successes and failures. Sometimes he misjudged people and suffered huge losses, but he never lost hope in humanity. He accepted these defeats as life lessons. He was always a rock in the face of adversity.
Abid was 27 when he married Shahnaz. He’d been smitten with her for years and returned to Pakistan to marry her in 1974. She immigrated to Canada as a pregnant 22-year-old and gave birth to Zainab. Bathool was born in 1980 and Hashim in 1983. (Abid had six grandchildren when he died.)
Abid was a man of principle and did not shy away from speaking his mind, especially if he thought something was wrong. His family would tell him to let it go, but he couldn’t. Many people learned not to take Abid on when it came to debating because you could not win.
Abid could never say no to those who reached out for assistance and even drew from his own line of credit to help others. Once, Dad invited six men who had applied for refugee status but had nowhere to live, to be guests in our home for days on end. He supported so many, financially, emotionally and physically, throughout his life.
Abid never forgot Pakistan, his first love, but he bled red and white and stood up for the country that accepted him while allowing him to retain his heritage. He was a proud Pakistani-Canadian.
In his last days, he was well aware of his health situation, but he remained calm, cool and as funny as ever. He was fortunate to be surrounded by his whole family when he breathed his last breath. Abid may have been small in physical stature, but was always larger than life.
Zainab Rizvi is Abid’s eldest daughter.
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