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Rhodes Trust 120th Anniversary Reunion

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MUHAMMAD ZAHIR

(Pakistan & Exeter 1959) (7 November 1936 - 20 March 2021)

MUHAMMAD ZAHIR

Muhammad “Max” Zahir. Physician. Author. Rhodes Scholar. Mentor. Born Nov. 7, 1936, in Ludhiana, India; died March 20, 2021, in Kamloops, of bone marrow cancer; aged 84.

Max never celebrated a birthday as a child. In India during the 1930s, it was not customary to issue a birth certificate and no one in the family took it upon themselves to make note of it otherwise. It was never an issue for Max, until his medical school application had a birth date requirement. Many visits to government offices eventually secured a declaration that would suffice. As the top high-school graduate in his year, this would be the only barrier he faced to attend the prestigious King Edward Medical University in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1953.

After graduating with a specialty in pathology, Max became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. His dissertation on wound healing earned him a Doctor of Philosophy, the respect of his supervising professors and a research post.

Max’s leadership and self-effacing demeanour was warmly welcomed by his hospital colleagues. The Moncton winters, however, did not offer a similar welcome. Before a move to milder climes occurred, his third child, Suzanna Kate was born. In 1974, Max moved his family to Kamloops, where he began 28 years of service to Royal Inland Hospital.

Max made it a priority during retirement to chronicle the years when the Partition of India destroyed the early years of his life. Max was 11 in 1947 but he remembers it as a time of unrelenting bloodshed and violence. On a train escaping to Pakistan, Max witnessed the abduction of his sister. The family never saw her again. While it was heart-wrenching to write of this tumultuous episode in South-Asian history, Max persevered and in 2011 published his book 1947: A Memoir of Indian Independence.

Until the very end, Max showed an unequivocal appreciation for the opportunities life so generously afforded him. His family said their final goodbyes as dawn greeted the first day of spring. When we held him for the last time, there was a modicum of comfort knowing that as he left us new life surrounded us.