Podcast episode 2 – Return to LAMB (an appeal)

My second attempt at a podcast. Before launching into continuing my series on controversial subjects, I want to make an appeal on behalf of my daughter.

Here’s the podcast but for those of you who prefer to read (quickly) I’ve added a summary text of my podcast plus the link to the GofundMe page and some obligatory photos too!

She started off presented to my readers as Thing I in homage to the wonderful Dr Seuss (whose books we were still reading to both her and brother Thing II at the time I began this blog) and also to grant her a degree of anonymity while we lived in Bangladesh.

When she became a teenager and showed a passion and talent for writing, she began her own blog as ‘Amory Powell’ – another psuedonym to grant a certain level of protection.

Now, somehow, not sure how it’s happened, she’s made it to adulthood (don’t how I let that one slip, should have been more careful I think), and before she goes to university Jess (her real name) wants to revisit the land where she grew up and give something back.

Next September Jess is booked to return to LAMB, where she spend the best part of eight years between visits and living there, and work for a year at the English Medium school she attended during that time and where I taught and trained teachers.

She’ll assist teachers there at a time where help is ever needed at LAMB. Since the Bangla government announced that the country was ‘no longer’ poverty-stricken NGOs have seen a gradual reduction in interest, funding, donations etc to help with the very real need which still affects the overwhelming majority of the country. Ironically, schools like LAMB school have helped cause this problem by giving Bangladeshi children quality education and enabling them to move on from (often) humble beginnings in village huts to degrees and even post-graduate degrees abroad to help increase the quality of life in the country. After 47 years of continuous dedication and hard work, NGOs are finally seeing the benefits in a very tangible way in the country.

Jess will spend a year teaching and assisting in classrooms on her own but doing so isn’t cheap. She needs around £5,000 to meet all her living costs, food, flights and general expenses. To that end she’s made this gofundme site and hopes for as many donations as possible. I know it’s old news to say this kind of thing but if everyone who reads this blog donated a couple of pounds, most of this figure would be raised. In reality, we know that most won’t and that only a few will give – and give generously – so I mention it only to say if you’re impoverished and thinking you could only give a couple of quid please do so. It really would add up and make a difference.

Here’s the link to support her if you’d like. And also some photos to give you a flavour of who Jess is and what she’s done over the years.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-me-teach-in-rural-bangladesh

International speaker, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Two new books coming out soon – don’t miss them! 

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Bangladesh, LAMB | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Podcast episode 1:Welcome, catch up and judging others

Trying something new! Introducing my first podcast – now you can listen to me on the go rather than read my drivel.

This is a bit longer than I’d normally like to do because I had to squeeze in several things but I’m hoping that I’ll do a lot more posts doing podcasts than I’ve been able to manage doing written posts.

I chose the opening and closing snippets having heard this classic track in the pub recently and musing over the irony that actually video tape is long gone but radio continues to flourish. Great song but, in the end, video DIDN’T kill the radio star. How often in life we think we know how things are going to pan out but years later we can look back and find it didn’t go that way at all.

My first attempt and, yes, rough and ready and full of ‘erms’ but hopefully I’ll get better! Please do let me know what you think 🙂

 

International speaker, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Bangladesh | 3 Comments

After the fight: A review and analysis of ‘Brick Lane 78’

Brick Lane 78 by Murad Khan

By Ken Powell

Thugs bully the shopkeeper in Brick Lane 78 (Photo: Ashim Chakraborty)

On Saturday 5 May, West Midlands-based theatre company, Purbanat, gave a special performance of Murad Khan’s latest offering ‘Brick Lane 78‘ at London’s Brady Art Centre.

The date was chosen deliberately: 40 years since the murder of Altab Ali, a Bangladeshi textile worker who was killed by three teenagers in a racist attack. The play by Khan (who also takes one of the principal roles) is a fictionalised version of the events leading up to Altab Ali’s death and the storm it provoked in the British Bangladeshi community.

Purbanat is a well-known and respected theatre company which brings both professionals and members of the West Midland community together to write and produce new plays as well as champion adaptations of international works. Khan in particular doesn’t shirk away from being honest even when it is uncomfortable. His comedy, Bangla Brummies, while entertaining the audience also challenged prejudices of skin, culture and tradition. Similarly, with this more serious work, Brick Lane 78 gives us a raw view of the vulnerability and lack of courage which often kept the fledgling community in London in fear of racist National Front youths and other racists. The shopkeeper, terrified by the vicious threats of youths agrees to give them alcohol and cigarettes; the husband, terrified for his wife’s safety, doesn’t want to get involved in demonstrations. The Bangladeshis in London, we find, are not a united lot.

This fear and lack of unity is vital for us to understand what happens next. With the death of Altab Ali (sympathetically played by Rajib Jebtiq) something finally struck a chord with the people and he inspired them to find a common voice, to rise up and say ‘enough is enough’. As said one member of the panel interviewed after the play which was largely made up of key people who were really there at the time, this was ‘perhaps the defining moment when the British Bangladeshi community discovered its own identity’.

From the moment the mass demonstrations began on the streets, Bangladeshis stopped being a ragtag of older immigrants with wives, children and cousins born in the UK or brought over from Bangladesh. Instead they identified as British as much as Bangladeshi and demanded their rights as UK citizens to live peaceful lives without facing malice and abuse. In doing so, they found that other BEM groups also found their voices and that they had allies in the white communities too.

I was a child at the time when this play is set and I recall the white British attitude all too painfully well. Tom Hendryk plays the parts of both police officers and racist youth brilliantly well and I cringed with a kind of national loathing as I listened to him in his role as officer arguing that effectively the Bangladeshis were to blame for the abuse they suffered. It’s just so like the British to make it ‘the foreigner’s fault’. “We’re doing our best. You must do yours too,” was the message patronisingly pasted over the problems ignored by authorities.

The cast begin their demonstrations (Photo: Ashim Chakraborty)

But I also recall how things began to change after those peaceful but effective demonstrations and how Britain began to accept again its multicultural heritage after believing the self-invented Victorian lie that ‘white is right’ for so long. We are a ‘mongrel’ nation (which is why the English language is such a mess grammatically) and our blood is a mix of many tribes and peoples. We tried to pretend we had a purity for a long time but Hitler held up a mirror to us and we didn’t like what we saw. We clearly still have a long way to go – even with governing authorities given the recent ‘Windrush’ scandal – but the sense of ghettoization of BEM groups is much less today.

In my home town in the excessively white area of West Cumbria is a Bangladeshi restaurant, The Akash, whose owner has lived there for over 40 years. His accent is thick, broad Cumbrian and he’s more of a northerner than I am. Indeed, I am the immigrant (still, after 18 years)and he is the native. That a Bangladeshi can be considered more ‘one of us’ in the far rural north than a white man who hails from Wigan says a lot for how much has changed in cultural values in forty years – and for the better.

All this is academically interesting of course, but what of the emotion? Parbanat, under the careful care of director Sudip Chakroborthy, succeeds in driving home the range of feelings of those times. From fear to anger – even to love and empathy from those least expected – the cast were convincingly real and powerful in their portrayal of imperfect but genuine people.

It would be quite wrong of me though if I did not call out one person in particular. Prati Bha moved me to tears in her portrayal of the delighted new bride,Marium, excited beyond her dreams to be living in London. Through her eyes we go from wonder, to disillusionment, to the deepest grief. One scene broke our hearts and I can safely say that I will never be able to eat dim bhuna again without tears coming to my eyes. Prati Bha held us transfixed as her world finally unravels. But her character rises, phoenix-like, to fight alongside her brothers and sisters, to make a future secure for her family. History tells us that she was right.

Marium (Prati Bha) and Jamir (Annil Mitto) (Photo: Ashim Chakraborty)

Today, Brick Lane is almost too successful for its own good. The area is packed with tourists so much that sometimes it’s actually difficult to see a Bangladeshi at all. So fashionable is the area that the rich are moving in, opening fancy coffee shops, and pushing the deshi community out. There’s an irony to the ripples which emanated from those protest demonstrations forty years before. When a community goes from ‘undesirable’ to ‘accepted’ to ‘highly desirable’ it then finds that outsiders want to control it all over again. The difference is that Bangladeshis no longer find their community squeezed into smaller ‘ghettos’: As British people anywhere is ok for them to live now. And rightly so.

There are, I believe, lessons to be learned for Bangladesh itself. It was a country only seven years old when Altab Ali met his end but whereas British Bangladeshis found their identity through the struggles, Bangladesh is still trying to find what it wants to be. The tussles between culture, tradition, secular values and religion continue with no sign of abatement. This year it was announced that Bangladesh is no long an LDC (Least Developed Country) – testament to the huge efforts over nearly fifty years to bring the country into the 21st century – yet kidnappings, murders and bureaucratic corruption abound. How can it be that those living in the UK have maintained traditional values and practices yet came to find themselves as British? As Brick Lane 78 shows us graphically well it wasn’t because they were welcomed with open arms! Secure as the British diaspora may be, the motherland remains a mess of in-fighting and political shenanigans.

There is a sub-plot to Brick Lane 78 which is subtle and remains undeveloped: one of blossoming but forbidden romance between white and Asian. As we move into third and fourth generation Bangladeshis we are increasingly seeing the younger generation completely disconnected with their family heritage because they simply don’t recognise that kind of life. They are British, and ‘Bangladeshi’ is virtually dropped for all but the most important official documentation. For me, this is a great shame and I am bewildered that my fairly weak Bangla reading, writing and speaking is better than many of my British ‘Bangladeshi’ friends. Not long ago I went to a Bangladeshi take away near Cambridge. I came up to the young man behind the till and said “Asaalam alaikum bhai. Kemon achen?” His response was this: “Oh sorry mate, I don’t speak that language. I’m from London. Let me get me dad, I think he still knows a bit…” and off he toddled. It would be very sad indeed if, in fighting to have the right to peaceful identity, the community lost its soul in the process. What if, one day, dim bhuna doesn’t mean anything special to anyone any longer? There is a tragedy I hope will never be played out.

Michael (Tom Hendryk) and Sophia (Ronica Syed) find their cultures clashing (Photo Ashim Chakroborthy)

 

International speaker, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Bangladesh, community, Culture, Racism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Final Night (aka Them Walking Blues)

Well this is it – the night before the big day. After weeks of training here’s my thoughts…

Click here to sponsor Team FP!

Thanks guys!

Ken

Educationalist, Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in community | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Keswick to Barrow Walk

I’ve gone and done something extremely silly. I know, I know; it’s not like Ken, you’re thinking. But I have.

Last year Thing I and Wifey foolishly decided to attempt the well-known Cumbrian event called ‘The Keswick to Barrow Walk’. This is – put simply – a walk from…ahem…Keswick to…well, Barrow basically.

Sounds nice right? Well it is. When the sun is shining it’s lovely walking around this amazing lake district area. We really are very lucky to live in such a beautiful area. Everyone that takes part has to raise a minimum of £80 for a nominated charity from an official list of accepted local charities too so it’s all for a good cause too.

However, despite looking close together on a map of the UK, Keswick and Barrow are actually 43 miles apart and it takes 12 hours (if you’re fit) to walk it – more hours if you’re less fit or old or, like me, both. It’s incredibly gruelling and people tend to have toenails drop off, or huge chunks of skin and other nasties like that as a result of attempting the distance. I can attest that those that take part don’t walk normal for days afterwards (if they can walk at all). Many drop off along the way and your pace is measured at stations positioned regularly along the track. If you take too long to reach a certain one they will pull you from the event even if you think you can carry on. They do this simply because trying to find tired and lost people in the dark isn’t much fun for anyone – especially the person who is lost and tired.

I was immensely proud of both girls last year but especially my 14-year-old Thing I. My son and I met up with them about ten miles from the end and she was suffering really, really badly. We tried to persuade her to give up (it was still an amazing achievement to do over 30 miles) and she was very tempted; but she carried on to the end. I’ve never known her show such courage.

We did it!!

14 hours after starting the walk at sunrise (and long after the sun had set) both girls passed the finishing line, in agony and with tears, but proud victors.

This year, as a joke, I was asked if I fancied doing the K2B.

“Go on then,” I said, also half jokingly. But then I thought: Heck why not? Hence, my first statement of doing something silly.

Yep, this year, yours truly will be attempting this epic escapade. ‘Team FP’ – consisting of myself, one of my best mates and our two ‘significant others’ (Wifey being the only experienced member of the team) will be setting off at the break of dawn on Saturday 12 May in order to raise money for the Independent Community Autism Activity Network (I CAAN). As it happens, our son, Thing II, has just been diagnosed with autism so this charity stands for something which has touched our lives. It wasn’t planned like that but it’s cool that it worked out that way.

Now I’m no spring chicken no more, let’s face it, and even when you’re young and healthy you need to put in some decent training walks. I love walking (in good weather and preferably in a museum and with a beer at the end 😀 ) but even I wasn’t going to be able to manage that many miles without working up to it. So for the last two months we’ve all been doing our walks – in fair weather and foul (and occasionally fowl too this being rural Cumbria after all) – getting ourselves ready.

Rumour has it that at least one of my team did as much as eight whole miles and declared themselves fit and ready to do the thing for real in May. It wasn’t me, I can assure you. I have struggled with every increase. Starting at eight miles, then ten, fourteen and, just last weekend, reaching an epic 26 miles. At the end of each one I can tell you I. Felt. Like. Death. My feet, legs and hips have discovered new heights of pain I didn’t know were possible. But I found the crippling length of the previous walk pretty easy to do by comparison with each succeeding walk – so I guess that means I am getting better at it even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Now that I’ve reached the 26 mile mark, which is well over the distance they recommend to make sure you’re ready to handle the day for real, I feel more relaxed and assured. I have a genuine fear that something will go wrong and I won’t make it to the end. At the fourteen mile walk I really did think there would be no way I was going to be able to do this. A consistent problem is a pain in my left hip which I can keep subdued with painkillers on the road but not eradicate entirely. My feet however take it in turns to come up with new ways to strain themselves and cripple me. Last weekend I thought I was going to be left crippled and lame in Kells (and locals will tell you, you don’t want to be stranded in Kells, believe me!) because something went wrong with my left foot. But somehow, I lurched on like Dr Frankenstein’s assistant and made it the final 5-6 miles home.

However, I have a month to go yet and no permanent damage has occurred so far so, touch wood, I think I’m going to be able to manage all 43 miles. With the training well in hand the only thing left to do is get sponsorship – and that, of course, is where you come in. If you feel so inclined, I’d be delighted if you can spare a moment to click on the link and send a few pennies and pounds our way. The K2B organisers are superb at organising the event but their website skills are none too good so don’t be put off by the basic layout. I hope some of you will take the time to navigate your way through and spare a pound or two. Doesn’t need to be much – the price of a coffee you could drink on the 12 May while watching me lumber on asking God to kill me along the way perhaps?

Click here to sponsor us

Here’s some pictures and videos from my training walks to give you some idea what it will be like in May and also to show you just how beautiful Cumbria can be.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks guys!

Ken

Educationalist, Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in British, children, community | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments