So Long and Thanks for all the Friendships

After long deliberation, I have decided to bring this personal blog to an end.

I first started it nearly ten years ago in the infancy of learning to become a freelance writer and after my family and I moved to Bangladesh. The blog was the result of writing advice to start one as a practical way to learn the trade of using words and finding your own ‘voice’. In this, the blog was most successful. I cut my teeth on the game here and learned at least something of what works and what doesn’t.

But, success comes at a price. I work at least 50 hours a week now juggling commercial writing, book writing, educational work and philanthropic concerns – and this blog simply doesn’t get the attention it requires.

Partly, this is because the site was always intended to be as eclectic as my own interests are. This was perfect when living in Bangladesh where I wanted to bring attention to the country, people, culture, beauty and problems. My product was ‘me’ and I could throw in all my other interests too.

But now, the frightening fact is that we’ve been living back in the UK for as long as we lived out in Bangladesh. Much though I continue to visit 2-3 times a year and keep all the my relationships with people out there, I also have new concerns. You can’t live in the UK and not find yourself affected by Brexit. My kids have grown up now and are just leaving compulsory education. I am ten years older and I’ve published bestseller books and have a worldwide audience. Bucket-list goals have been ticked off. Life has moved on.

I’ve made attempts to steer the blog in other directions but the title just doesn’t fit now. I realise I need to write to specialist interests rather than a general audience who will only be interested in a particular fraction of what I write about. Everything I write interests someone but not everyone, and that needs to change.

So, it’s time for Ken to stop ‘thinking aloud’ and, instead, concentrate on new avenues. One, for instance, is that I’ve never allowed religious topics to be discussed here – largely on grounds of respect for a culture dominated by faith issues, but also for reasons of safety and security. This was why I also gave nicknames to my family members and why I write with a pseudonym even to this day. But the implications of both faith and atheism are ones which drive me (and you may have picked up on this with some of my more recent posts) but this, I feel, needs a separate site. There are other interests too though – travel, education, crime…and so on.

The aim then is to formally end this blog here, and in a couple of months archive the site completely. Much of the material is already being prepped for inclusion in modified form for my long-awaited (and way, way, WAY too late) book about our adventures in Bangladesh. In the summer I hope to produce several new sites specialising in different interests (and will be open to other contributors). Perhaps you’ll find me again then on one of them? Before that though, there are three nearly-complete book manuscripts which need finishing off…

A rather lovely side-effect of writing this blog to practise my skills was the finding of, at the time, a huge blogging community. I’ve seen blogs rise to massive audience members and participation only to fall again and blink out of existence and blogging, in general, just isn’t as popular as it once was. I think that’s a shame.

But then I’ve noticed that the world’s fad with friendship and communication has now come to an end too – at least for now. When I left for Bangladesh in 2008, Facebook was a lifesaver. The days when you had to leave all your former friends behind were over. As I made new friendships in Asia, I kept and even strengthened older friendships from the West. Indeed, I found people I’d lost years ago and they’ve remained in my life ever since. But now, there seems a reluctance to communicate in the social media world. Yes, the arguments and trolling continue unabated – I never liked those – but the idea that you could be friends with someone you’ve never met, on the other side of the world and, one day, meet and be best of friends – that interest seems gone. That seems very sad to me.

In the blogging world I made many, many friends with whom I communicated privately, got to know, got to be part of their lives and, eventually, met and became IRL friends. Some have continued. Some, just as happens with our natural IRL friendships, ended in harsh words, violent disagreements and – that disease of the modern virtual world – blocking. Some of these breakdowns really hurt and they have certainly wearied me. But many have continued and enriched my life. Just earlier this year I stayed with a lovely blogging friend in the Philippines and I fell in love with her kind heart, loving family and her beautiful country. Such moments make life worth living and I treasure good memories of meetings like this even if those relationships have eventually come to an end.

Despite my sadness that social media seems to have given up on friendship, and the blogging world is no longer one of mass comradeship and excitement, I have to confess, I’ve caught something of the malady myself. My youthful enthusiasm for meeting new people, discovering new lives and learning new ways of thinking and being, has waned. I feel tired and only really able to give time and energy to those who actively seek it back. I can’t chase people any longer and I’m more comfortable in my own company. Perhaps this is me, after nearly six years, finally getting used to being British again and adjusting to no longer being Bangladeshi? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the writing in my head still needs to come out and, when I’m not doing it commercially for editors and clients, I will be getting it out there on other platforms. Just not this one.

So, thank you, all of you, who have followed me on this journey, given me encouragement, engaged in my writings, taken the time to befriend me or just taken time to get to know me a little. It’s been an epic ten years and I’ve loved every minute of it.

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Posted in Bangladesh, community, Culture, Life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

A poem – by my son

I have often published pieces from my daughter on this site but my son (known to you regulars as ‘Thing II’) is not exactly known for his literary pursuits (by his own admission). Like me, his youth has found its best expression through music. But every now and then he likes to surprise us all. Last night he wrote this and put it on his Facebook. With his permission I am publishing it here. He’s almost 16 now and is, to all intents, a man. With that comes great depth of feeling and many mixed emotions. I’m proud of the maturity and depth he conveys here.

I look among the rush hour of quacks.

Among people afraid, that if their vail should slip, all shall be lost.

Among the fucking liars, cheaters, and rapist, sustained as the hero for the suit they wear.

Among those, who seek to find the hunted, and now endangered species of the fairytale Samaritan.

Among those, who traded that last drop hope, in exchange for a drop of Tennessee.

The multitude of anguish and pain, lost in the filled cabinet of a 9-5 backroom. All lost in a cloud of grey smoke, from a troubled teen, thinking of changing the world in his extremist movement.

I see one ray glisten through the clouds. One last remaining hope. My mind lost on a glistening diamond, my eyes fixed till the early morning. A broken diamond, by those too afraid to see the light.

Seeking refuge, I refuse to let go in hopes of a world sheltered, to call home.

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.

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 Culture, Life, Philosophy | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

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