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Mukhtar Thakur spent his life traveling the world, each time returning home with a desire to bridge divided communities.

The engineer worked in particular to connect Minnesota's South Asian and Muslim communities, and to promote political engagement.

Following a battle with Parkinson's disease, Thakur died at his Woodbury home on Oct. 7. He was 67.

Thakur was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, before living in London and Saudi Arabia. In the 1980s, he settled in the Twin Cities to raise his family. A graduate of the University of Wales in Swansea, he also earned a master's degree in management of technology from the University of Minnesota.

Thakur's daughter, Azra Thakur, described her father as a "community connector" who enjoyed watching the news and paying close attention to world events and politics.

"[He was] really caring about what people were experiencing in other parts of the world, and wanted to know," she said.

Often, Mukhtar Thakur was at the forefront of hosting or helping lead events to involve the Muslim community in political activism.

"He was out there doing it and trying to tell us how important it was that we engage in the politics around us, and getting to know our political representatives, and getting active in elections," said close friend Irfan Ali.

In 1991, Thakur started a KFAI radio program called "Sangam" with his longtime friend Sarjit Bains. The show played music from India, Pakistan and other South Asian communities for more than 30 years, ending last September.

"He did a tremendous amount for the community, both within the Muslim community from India, and then beyond that. So his interests were not myopic in any way," Bains said. "He was just one of those unique people who could bring people together when there were problems that had to be solved, and he did that across the spectrum."

During car rides to the radio station, Bains recalled, they would have deep conversations about family life, politics and their upbringings in different parts of the world.

Thakur also produced two TV shows: "Geetmala," a music-based program; and "Diversity in Focus," a program diving into diverse perspectives focused on immigrant communities.

In 2008, Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Thakur to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. Thakur also served as a longtime member of the India Association of Minnesota.

Thakur spent his entire career at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), where he played a major role as an engineer for the design of the Hiawatha light rail line. He retired in 2019.

"Mukhtar spent many hours per day to ensure that the public got the best and safest transportation infrastructure. But he also found time to work for the opportunities, growth and success of MnDOT employees, some of whom were not in the mainstream," said Ed Clarke, a longtime friend who served with Thakur on MnDOT's diversity committee. "Mukhtar was highly intelligent and a skilled communicator, who was patient when he had to be, but always persistent. I'm sure he believed that some internal organizational struggles would always be there, but he did much to move the ball forward."

Thakur is survived by his wife, Rashida Thakur; children Azra Thakur of Woodbury, Nasra Thakur of Chicago, and Shakil Thakur of Roseville; and siblings Abida Hussein, Maryam Quadir and Ashfaq Thakur, who live in London.