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Tuesday January 15, 2013

Nisar A. Beg

Freelance writer, father, globetrotter, lifelong dreamer. Born May 5, 1931, in Lahore, British India, died July 23, 2012, in Mississauga, Ont., of pulmonary fibrosis, aged 81

Nisar was born during tumultuous political change in India. He and his family lived in Lahore, which after partition of the country in 1947 became part of Pakistan.

Nisar lost his father at a young age. He became a lifelong student of the human condition.

An adventurous and eccentric person, he came across National Geographic magazine in his teens and dreamed of a career as an international photojournalist.

In 1954, he ventured out to see the world and arrived in Britain. He worked odd jobs to support himself, including driving a double-decker tram in Huddersfield, England. He attended night school there, but could never sit still long enough to meet conventional academic measures of success. Ordinary paradigms did not interest him as much as Socratic dialogue with ordinary people did. In 1966, Nisar returned to Pakistan and in 1968 married Firdaus, an artist and educator. They spent some time in England, then migrated in 1970 to Canada, where their three daughters were born.

Life as immigrants was tough as he and Firdaus tried to establish roots in a new land from very humble beginnings, but Nisar's belief that Canada was the best country in which to live never wavered.

He modelled critical thinking and curiosity, and instilled a sense of social justice in his children. He always found time to cook creatively (his signature dish was Hungarian goulash), to invent household contraptions and to plant beautiful gardens.

While Nisar worked long hours for many years with the City of Toronto and dabbled in various creative business ventures, he continued to dream of travel. In 1980, after accumulating vacation days and overtime, he took a trip around the world in 35 days, for which he was recognized in the Toronto Star.

In 1996, he survived a quadruple heart bypass, and with a new lease on life he retired early to travel more extensively.

He preferred adventure travel, which he called wandering. He called himself the Happy Wanderer and wrote stories and blogs for family and friends of his search for his personal Shangri-La, which took him to all seven continents and most of the world's oceans and seas. He travelled three times around the globe and from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. Continuing until he was 80, he proclaimed himself a "millionaire" after logging about one and three-quarter million kilometres.

Nisar was often invited to speak of his travels at public libraries, to his peers in the Ulyssean Society and even to ESL students at a school in Argentina. Just days before he passed away, he completed a third self-published collection of travel stories.

Nisar held three nationalities, British, Canadian and Pakistani, and was also a registered World Citizen. He dreamed of a world without borders in which all human beings would some day live in peace and harmony.

Zaiba and Farheen Beg are two of Nisar's daughters.

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