From Sylhet To Cambridge: Reflecting On 60 Years Of Family History And Heritage

During my school days, history was something that hardly filled me with excitement. Even watching Doctor Who episodes set in the past required serious effort to motivate and inspire me, but credit where it’s due, on most occasions they succeeded.

Perhaps as a child, intrigued and fascinated by science fiction and technology (my uncles hold responsibility for that), my interests were focused on the present and the future. The past just seemed dull; a visualisation of the 1960s where everything was in black and white, and out of focus. This childish, indifferent and immature perception of history has since undergone a mature transformation to one of understanding, appreciation and pride.

I am a third-generation British Bangladeshi, born and raised in Cambridge, a city that is renowned for education, diversity and tolerance. I have lived here all my life and am proud to call it my home.

On 26th March 1971, Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan. 46 years have passed, but 1971 remains a very important year for me – even more so for my family. Let me explain why this is the case, but first, let’s wind the clock back further to 1957.

1957 was where it all started – the year my late maternal grandfather arrived in Britain. He experienced a difficult childhood after losing both his parents at a young age. He was given the opportunity to work in the UK as he sought a better quality of life, before eventually settling in Cambridge permanently. He arrived at a time when the country was recovering after the Second World War – the period of post-war immigration.

The British economy was undergoing a process of reconstruction and it was soon identified that large numbers of immigrants were needed to support the pressing demands of the UK labour market. This also attracted many workers and their families from the Commonwealth and beyond Europe – mainly from the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent. My grandfather entered the business trade, opening and running two Indian restaurants called The New Bengal and The Bengal Tandoor Mahal within the Cambridge city centre. Sadly, these restaurants have since closed down, but photographs of them can be found in the Cambridgeshire archives.

A photograph of the New Bengal Restaurant on Regent Street, Cambridge, published in the city’s local newspaper in May 1973 (Photo Credit: Cambridge Evening News)
2017-04-03-1491252681-317561-bengal_tandoor_mahal_restaurant.jpg
The Bengal Tandoor Mahal Restaurant (right) on Fitzroy Street, Cambridge, circa 1976 (Photo Credit: Cambridge Evening News)

In 1963, my grandmother followed, also settling in the city and has been living here ever since. She gave birth to three sons and two daughters in Cambridge. The daughters were twins; one was my aunt who sadly died in 1997 and the other is my mother – an author, writer and publisher. There are many people in our family and across the local community who particularly remember the birth of my mother and aunt, not simply because they happened to be twins but because of the timing. Two days after they were born, Bangladesh celebrated Victory Day – a significant and momentous occasion in the nation’s history, when the Allied Forces High Command triumphed over the Pakistani Forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

My family history in Cambridge goes back exactly 60 years. My family was one of the first from the Sylhet region of Bangladesh to settle in the city, and has seen the Bangladeshi community expand over time. I believe it is important for me to reflect upon such a milestone and understand why I am here today. My late grandfather, who came from a rural village in Sylhet, travelled to Britain because he was given an opportunity – a chance for a better life. Looking back, it helps me to learn about my roots and understand them, and to appreciate my heritage. I wonder how life could have been so different for me if my grandfather remained in Bangladesh.

The lesson I learn from reflecting upon 60 years of my family history and heritage is that I should never forget where I am from. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to meet my grandfather, as he passed away in 1985. However, he left behind a legacy and made his mark in Cambridge through his work in the restaurant trade. When I first visited Bangladesh in 2002 as an eleven-year-old, I recall a couple of local villagers asking me the names of my grandfathers:

“What is the name of your Dada (paternal grandfather)?”

“What is the name of your Nana (maternal grandfather)?”

I told them their names, and I noticed their faces light up when I mentioned my maternal grandfather’s name. At that moment, I was rather surprised at their reaction and struggled to recognise what was so special about him. Fifteen years on from that encounter, I have a clearer understanding. I feel inspired.

I am proud of my history and heritage. I am proud to be British and to have lived in Cambridge all my life, and I am also proud that my country of origin is Bangladesh.


Source: Huffington Post UK
Date of Publication: 4th April 2017
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ibrahim-rahman/from-sylhet-to-cambridge-_b_15684898.html

Inventors Club Whitechapel: Driving Social Change Through Technology Within London’s East End

Although I’m Cambridge born and raised and the library was where I spent most of my days (well not really, but I hope one can recognise my poor and laughable effort of referring to the Fresh Prince), my fascination of the richly-diverse region of Tower Hamlets in East London has grown exponentially in recent years.

I’ve been here so many times that I’ve lost count, but fortunately I don’t even need to use the GPS on my smartphone anymore. Seriously, you cannot begin to underestimate the value of battery life. Or maybe you do, so that’s surely a good thing. I think it’s fair to say that I know where most of the fried chicken shops are too; those succulent, tender, fried chicken wings… and let’s not forget the spicy lamb doner kebabs. An abundance of delicacies to get you salivating; just can’t seem to get enough (excuse the Depeche Mode reference, but let’s face it, I’m on a roll today!).

Commuting by train from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street before sauntering past the curry houses of Brick Lane, it was in this area of the East End that I was offered the opportunity to present a web series chat show for an online British Bangladeshi TV network. I learned from my presenting experiences that this was just one example of how Internet technologies can be utilised to make a positive difference and inspire young people, particularly those from deprived backgrounds. But inspiration is an entity that functions in multiple ways, and it is my encounter with Mohima Ahmed that encouraged me to highlight how technology is being utilised for a great cause – right at the heart of East London.

Mohima Ahmed is an Apps For Good trustee and a volunteer for Inventors Club Whitechapel (Photo Credit: Apps For Good)
Mohima Ahmed is an Apps For Good trustee and a volunteer for Inventors Club Whitechapel (Photo Credit: Apps For Good)

In August 2016, I had the privilege of meeting Mohima, a bright and talented biomedical engineering student from Imperial College London, who lives in Tower Hamlets. She is a trustee/fellow for Apps For Good, an open-source technology education movement that partners with educators in schools and learning centres to deliver their course content to young people. Mohima developed an English-to-Bengali translation app in 2011 for parent-teacher conferences. She revealed that she is a volunteer for Inventors Club Whitechapel – a small and ambitious group of young parents, local residents and enthusiasts aiming to bring the world of technology to children in Whitechapel.

Akik Miah is the founder of the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
Akik Miah is the founder of the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

The club was founded in February 2016 by Akik Miah, a systems designer, with the intention of introducing young people to coding, data networking, hardware and applications design. “Our aim is to provide kids with the best of opportunities that technology has to offer and help bring out the inventors in them,” he said. “Local youngsters are not aware of the opportunities on their doorstep so we are hoping to deliver something exciting to Tower Hamlets, and create opportunities for the next generation who want to pursue a career in the field of technology.”

Akik and his team of volunteers aim to work with local youngsters and bring out the inventors in them (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
Akik and his team of volunteers aim to work with local youngsters and bring out the inventors in them (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

Akik formed a multi-skilled team of local volunteers from various sectors, including law, finance, and academia to help with the running of the club. Mohima is very much a key figure of the group, a regular helper who interacts with the club’s younger members and explains to them what they can do with code. “My experiences of working with kids is more to do with building their confidence than anything else,” Mohima said. “Speaking to them, understanding their thoughts and ideas, and then supporting them is important, which is what I try to do in my role.”

Mohima is of Bangladeshi descent and feels that the Bangladeshi community has never been short of talent or ambition, but she believes a lot of bright young people are hindered by a lack of guidance and role models in the technology field. “The club aims to break down these barriers and show local kids that they really can do anything, or even invent the kit to do so! There’s no reason the next Mark Zuckerberg can’t come from Tower Hamlets and when they do, the natural altruism and charitable teachings embedded in our culture will see that this is a force for positive, world-changing good.”

The children are focused on their assignment (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
The children are focused on their assignment (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

Although the majority of the club’s members come from a Bangladeshi background, Mohima stated that it was set up to support all children living in Tower Hamlets and that there is a greater focus to encourage more female students to become involved. “We’re definitely trying to recruit more students from all backgrounds. We are also thinking about how to involve more girls in the club and provide a platform for their work,” she said. “I hope that the girls who have attended our sessions so far have learned that there’s definitely a place for them in the tech world too. There’s no specific “type” of girl either, nor is there a dress code. We’ve got women wearing Converses and women wearing Louboutins – all that matters is that we love what we do!”

Faizah (centre) is studying Education at university and is one of the volunteers at the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)
Faizah (centre) is studying Education at university and is one of the volunteers at the club (Photo Credit: Inventors Club Whitechapel)

My recent adventures in Tower Hamlets have filled me with inspiration. Inventors Club Whitechapel looks forward to 2017 with ambitious projects to continue their mission of highlighting and nurturing young and local talent. Although it is often described as one of London’s most deprived boroughs, I believe Tower Hamlets is a place where the next generation can look to create their own opportunities and make their dreams become a reality.

Time for me to munch on some chicken wings…


Source: Huffington Post UK
Date of Publication: 11th January 2017
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ibrahim-rahman/inventors-club-whitechape_b_14049740.html

Ibrahim’s Review of 2016

I’m back! My first blog post of 2016! Let’s do the Sturridge…

Liverpool FC striker Daniel Sturridge is in the groove

Wait… what? Oh yes… I haven’t blogged all year. Oops. Sorry everyone. My ONLY blog post of 2016.

Technically that isn’t true though, I did write one blog post this year. It just wasn’t published on my website. More on that later…

I’ve got to say, 2016 has not been easy for me. It’s been a difficult year but on reflection there have been some great highlights to share, and I am determined to make my eighth review a positive one. It was a bright start to the year with the news that I had been shortlisted under the Services to Media category for the British Muslim Awards 2016. The awards ceremony took place on a cold evening in Birmingham where I lost out to BBC Asian Network presenter Noreen Khan, but I was up against many tough opponents in my category. Excuse the footballing analogy but it was like being a newly-promoted team in the Premier League for the first time, and you’re just happy to be there knowing you’re probably going to get relegated anyway… or somehow you’ll find a way to stay up! Analogies aside, that night in January was a memorable occasion and it was an honour to even have been shortlisted under this fiercely contested category. Well done Noreen for claiming the award, you fully deserved it!

Ibrahim with BBC Asian Network presenter and award-winner Noreen Khan

A month later, I left my presenting role at Cambridge 105 to join LB24tv, an online British Bangladeshi TV network based in East London. From February to September, I presented Youth Corner – a web series chat show for the youth. The aims of the programme were to showcase the achievements of emerging talent, providing a platform for guests to share their experiences and inspiring stories, and discuss topics that are important to them. It was great to gain TV presenting experience but I particularly enjoyed meeting guests and getting to know them. It felt rewarding to introduce fresh new faces and offer them a platform, considering how the majority of Bangladeshi media outlets I’ve come across, seem to frequently promote the same people and do not provide other hard-working and talented individuals a chance. Many thanks to Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan RahmanShuhel Ahmed, Amira HaqueSafwaan ChoudhuryHalima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry, Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, and Sayful Alam for all being part of the show! Special thanks to the LB24tv production team for giving me the opportunity to present the show too!

Ibrahim presents the chat show web series “Youth Corner” for LB24tv
The guests (top-left to bottom-right): Abu Ali, Cháyya Syal, Mizan Rahman, Shuhel Ahmed; Amira Haque, Safwaan Choudhury, Halima Khanom, Uzma Chaudhry; Carl Francis, Mohima Ahmed, Sharmin Yousuf, Sayful Alam

My experiences with presenting Youth Corner inspired me to publish my first-ever article as a blogger for the Huffington Post in October, focusing on my utilisation of digital media to engage and empower the youth within the British Bangladeshi community. Massive thanks to Abu Ali, Amira Haque and Shuhel Ahmed for your valuable contributions!

I left LB24tv in September to undertake a TV production course every Saturday at the Cambridge TV School for nine weeks. It was fantastic! What impressed me the most about the course was how much of the work was practical. It was very much hands-on. From the very beginning we were testing out the TV cameras, filming at various locations in Cambridge, presenting and interviewing contributors in the Cambridge TV studio, and editing our captured video footage. I did a fair amount of presenting over those two months as well – the autocue was great fun to mess around with! It was a real pleasure to work with so many awesome people throughout the course, and I would like to thank everyone involved (staff and students) at the school for their amazing support and enthusiasm. I hope we get opportunities to collaborate again soon and I wish you all the best with your future endeavours!

Ibrahim presents “Behind the Brush” for Cambridge TV, a show that explores the work of Cambridge artists

I also managed to sandwich a TV appearance on The Daily Show with Joseph & Salma, a magazine lifestyle series chat show hosted by Joseph and Salma Hayat, on British Muslim TV (Sky 845). In November, I joined the couple in their fancy-looking studio by the London Docklands to talk about how I was engaging and empowering the youth through my work using digital media, drawing some parallels to what I wrote in my blog for the Huffington Post. Thank you Joseph and Salma for having me on your show! That round table changes colour by the way. Thought it was pretty cool…

Ibrahim appears on British Muslim TV’s “The Daily Show with Joseph and Salma”

And finally, I found out almost a couple of weeks ago that I had been shortlisted as a finalist in the Services to Creativity and Technology category at the British Muslim Awards 2017! The awards ceremony will take place next month at the Athena in Leicester. Yes, Leicester – the home of the 2015/16 Premier League Champions. Unbelievable, but what an achievement. Anyway, next year looks like it’s already off to a good start…

Oh yes, what’s happening with Ramadan Roundup? I’ve had a lot to do recently and as you can see, there hasn’t been a new episode in the series since 2014. The timing just hasn’t been right for me yet, but let’s see what happens next year. As it stands, I do believe there is at least one more episode to produce. It’s just a matter of making time. As my filmmaking friend Shuhel Ahmed will tell you, even work on his upcoming superhero comedy web series Classified Freaks has stalled in recent months, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait. I’m really looking forward to watching it!

And that’s pretty much it for this year. I leave you with an inspirational quote from Mufti Ismail Menk…

“The road of life doesn’t allow you to travel backwards. Keep going. There’s a reason for everything. You may not see it now; just trust!”

As always, thank you all so much for your support and kindness, and for following my adventures in 2016. I hope things look up for us in 2017. Best wishes to you all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Why Am I Using Digital Media To Engage And Empower The Youth Within The British Bangladeshi Community?

Technology. It’s a wonderful thing. A source of fascination to me since childhood. Well, since my nursery school days to be precise. Two decades later, I’m using digital media to engage and interact with emerging young talent.

So, how did it all start?

As an energetic and inquisitive three-year-old, I was totally in awe of my uncle’s computer system. The thunderous tapping of the keyboard and incessant clicking of the mouse were as amazing to listen to as they were to watch. MS-DOS was mind-blowing. You could press a few buttons and make things happen. It looked like so much fun that I wanted to have a go too! Before I knew it, I had successfully repaired my nursery school’s computer. Shutdown and reboot; sorted. Back to joining the class and learning more nursery rhymes, but this was only the beginning of my journey into the world of digital technology and it went on to affect me in ways I never dreamed of.

My burgeoning interests in this domain diverted me towards media, after somehow navigating a path into my family’s video equipment and editing software. I have retained a strong interest in video production ever since I was at primary school. Since then, I have created a short film series with one episode that was shortlisted for a national film award, and I have reported and presented for radio and online TV, catering to varied audiences and working with diverse content.

This takes me to social media, a powerful and dynamic tool that has rapidly evolved over the last decade and continues to influence the lives of many. Over the last five years, it has enabled me to utilise various digital platforms to connect and positively engage with the youth through my own networks. Every day during Ramadan this year, I used Facebook’s livestream feature to share my experiences and initiate discussions over a range of topics such as food, Euro 2016 and the result of the EU Referendum. I received positive reactions and comments from my viewers. I did not know anyone else from my hometown, Cambridge, who was doing this during the month – it was about offering a different alternative that people within my locality could interact with and look forward to.

In contrast, social media has also been a region of personal disappointment and frustration, knowing there are young and talented individuals who do exist and are not receiving the credit they deserve – particularly within the Asian communities. I wanted to address this and numerous issues involving the youth throughout the British Bangladeshi community.

Presenting the chat show web series Youth Corner (Photo credit: LB24tv)
Presenting the chat show web series Youth Corner (Photo credit: LB24tv)

A British Bangladeshi online TV network offered me the opportunity to present a chat show web series called Youth Corner. The aims of the series were to highlight the achievements of young and emerging talent in various fields, providing a platform for guests to share their experiences and inspiring stories, and discuss topics relevant to them such as education, career development and much more. It has so far reached tens of thousands of users via Facebook, numbers that are increasing on a daily basis.

Abu Ali, a Clinical Data Manager from North London, was my first-ever guest of the series. “I was delighted to be the first guest,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to explain to the younger community what opportunities you have, how you can achieve them and make a difference. It also led to presenting a new show myself, so I can be grateful to Youth Corner for that!”

Abu Ali, a Clinical Data Manager, was the first guest to appear on Youth Corner (Photo credit: LB24tv)
Abu Ali, a Clinical Data Manager, was the first guest to appear on Youth Corner (Photo credit: LB24tv)

Amira Haque, a midwifery student from the University of the West of Scotland was a guest on Youth Corner. “The series is a fantastic initiative that exhibits the work and skills of lesser-known people,” she explained. “It inspires young people to do good and succeed in their respective fields, showing that success isn’t all about becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer.”

Amira Haque, a midwifery student, was crowned Young Person of the Year for Cambridgeshire in 2015 (Photo credit: LB24tv)
Amira Haque, a midwifery student, was crowned Young Person of the Year for Cambridgeshire in 2015 (Photo credit: LB24tv)

Shuhel Ahmed, an East London-based filmmaker, was another to make an appearance on my show and explained the challenges he has faced with his work. “When this opportunity arose, I felt this was my best chance to express and discuss why I love what I do,” he said. “It gave me conviction and belief that my work is getting noticed, and that all those hard long hours working away does really pay off. Appearing on Youth Corner allowed me to demonstrate to my family and friends that it is possible to achieve success in this industry.”

Shuhel Ahmed, a filmmaker from East London, talked about his upcoming short film series for the first time on Youth Corner (Photo credit: LB24tv)
Shuhel Ahmed, a filmmaker from East London, talked about his upcoming short film series for the first time on Youth Corner (Photo credit: LB24tv)

From my own personal experiences and what I have seen within my own community, it is clear to me that young talent is in abundance, but what concerns me is the lack of media platforms out there supporting them. Many Bangladeshi media outlets I have come across seem to promote the same faces time and again and I feel it is dispiriting for those hard-working individuals who are desperate to make a breakthrough, but get overlooked.

Youth Corner enabled guests to feel empowered, instilling them with confidence and the belief that their work and achievements are being recognised and appreciated. Through Youth Corner, I have been able to network with young people from different walks of life and it has been a great learning experience for me.

I am especially grateful that I was given an opportunity to present my own show, but also to focus on issues that I am passionate about. The youth is the next generation and will ultimately be the ones who lead us into the future. There is still so much work to be done, but my recent encounters have filled me with optimism and belief that digital media can make a significant contribution, particularly for the youth. Attitudes within the British Bangladeshi community are changing steadily and this is encouraging.

It’s all work in progress.


Source: Huffington Post UK
Date of Publication: 17th October 2016
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ibrahim-rahman/why-am-i-using-digital-me_b_12457820.html

British Bangladeshi Who’s Who 2015

Thursday 5th November 2015. The Meridian Grand, London – the luxurious setting for this year’s British Bangladeshi Who’s Who event.

After attending the previous two events in 2013 and 2014, I was keen to get involved this time round and see what I could do to assist with from behind the scenes, particularly with the publication. I was tasked with editing the profiles of some new and existing entries that were to be included in this year’s publication. I also managed the social media sites for the British Bangladeshi Who’s Who this year, setting up profiles on Twitter and Instagram to promote the showpiece as well as helping to run the already existing Facebook page. I was keen for there to be a stronger social media presence, especially during the event. I thought this would be a great opportunity to promote the hashtag #bbwhoswho, knowing that there are many within the Bangladeshi community who are frequent users of social media and love to share photos.

On the night of the showpiece hosted by news presenter Lisa Aziz and barrister Anawar Miah, I tweeted throughout using the British Bangladeshi Who’s Who Twitter account – @bbwhoswho. The overall response to the Twitter coverage was positive, with guests engaging with the tweets and following the trend of using #bbwhoswhoRupa Huq MP, an award-winner on the night, and Zac Goldsmith MP, a London Mayoral candidate, both tweeted about the event.

Regarding the publication, I was listed as one of the contributors on the first page. Second from bottom.

Ibrahim was a contributor in this year's British Bangladeshi Who's Who publication
Ibrahim was listed a contributor in this year’s British Bangladeshi Who’s Who publication

In other news, before the awards ceremony kicked off, I was interviewed by Zakir Khan (see picture below). Somehow I made him laugh. Or maybe he was laughing at one of his own jokes. Or maybe he wanted to challenge me to a lightsaber duel. Look at him aiming his lightsaber-style microphone at me AND laughing… before the event started, they played out a segment from the Star Wars soundtrack. Funny, right? Fortunately, he wasn’t actually as menacing as his facial expressions showed. Phew! We had a brief chat about my contribution to this year’s British Bangladeshi Who’s Who publication and how I was helping out at the event. I wonder where this interview will be shown… Channel S possibly?

Ibrahim is interviewed by Zakir Khan
Ibrahim was interviewed by Zakir Khan before the event

While we are on the subject of audio equipment, Rez Kabir added a lively touch with his rich and distinctive voice-overs throughout the show. He just sat in a dark corner of the hall, bellowing into a microphone for a couple of hours. Well played. He’s also a very talented actor!

It was also a nice occasion to meet familiar and new faces…

Award-winning accountant Mahbub Murshed with Ibrahim
Award-winning accountant Mahbub Murshed with Ibrahim
Ibrahim with award-winner Kamru Ali
Ibrahim with award-winner Kamru Ali

To conclude, I enjoyed being part of the project. I would like to thank Abdul Karim Goni and Shahadoth Karim for giving me the opportunity to help out with the publication and at the event itself. The Meridian Grand was an excellent choice for this year’s venue and I think it would be good to see the next event hosted there again. Well done to everyone involved.