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 2012: Part Two

“This review is far from over, and there is only one person who can finish the job. Step forth, Mr Rahman…”

How about that? Sounds like this blog post introduction has gone all soft on me now. Took you long enough…

“Hold on, I could so easily go back to being patronising again.”

Maybe you should. Some people may find it entertaining.

“Not this time, you deserve a break. Besides, you have a job to do. Continue…”

Right…

Welcome back. In the first part of my review, I analysed 2012 from an academic perspective. This time, I would like to you relax, sit back and enjoy the ride.

In terms of blogging for this year, I was certainly more active than in 2011. Unfortunately, I did not hit the high standards set in 2010, but it is a steady improvement.

It has been an interesting and productive year for filmmaking. I had to wait until I had completed my studies, but I was very excited about getting on with some new projects over the summer.

My mother, Shahida Rahman, witnessed the publication of her first novel “Lascar” in June. I created a short promotional trailer to promote the book, which has so far racked up approximately 700 views on YouTube. Two days after publication, “Lascar” was revealed to a sell-out audience at the Waterstone’s bookstore in Cambridge, where my mother delivered a short presentation on the history of Lascars and an insight of the book. After the presentation, she held a book signing. I produced two videos of the book launch, and all footage can be found on www.youtube.com/ShahidaOfficial and www.youtube.com/ihrahman. 2012 has been a massive year for my mother, and I pray that she continues to achieve success. Keep up the good work!

In July, the Olympic Torch arrived in Cambridge. I had an excellent view of watching the cauldron being lit by Iwan Thomas, and I was also able to create a short video of this momentous occasion. I tweeted the video to him, and he responded by sharing it on his profile! I think he has nearly 60,000 followers on Twitter. It was clear to see that sport had engulfed the nation this summer, making this a year that could never be forgotten. London 2012 was incredible. I had tickets to watch Football at Wembley Stadium, Archery at Lord’s Cricket Ground, and Handball and Wheelchair Tennis at the Olympic Park. Great stuff.

My final video of 2012 was “Ramadan Roundup 2“, the latest episode of the “Ramadan Roundup” series. Once again, I shared my own experiences of Ramadan from this year and I talked about various topics including family, education and charity. You can follow the latest updates on “Ramadan Roundup” via Facebook and Twitter.

I think I have just about covered everything on filmmaking for this year. However, I am still not finished yet. Do not worry though, Part Three will be on the way very soon! I better get some sleep. My friend is getting married in the morning!

We are reaching an epic conclusion, but you will have to be patient…

Ibrahim’s Review of 2012: Part One

This year has been quite extraordinary. It is difficult to think that there will be another one like this again.

After struggling through my university assignments during the end of last year, 2012 began in a similar fashion and stress levels were very high. For one module I had studied, I had to produce a logbook that showed evidence of my work. I remember having to complete all these online exercises, as well as having to write up everything I had done. On top of that, I had to include many screenshots to demonstrate that I had actually done the work, but also to show that I understood what I was doing. It was without doubt, one of the toughest assignments I had ever submitted throughout my time at university. The difficulty of the work was not the issue, it was the fact that there was so much to do in such a short period of time. It was extremely intense! Printing was a nightmare, the logbook was well over 400 pages! However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, and there were certainly reasons to be optimistic for what was yet to come.

I battled the fierce wave of assignments from the first semester and thankfully the results were good. There was only one more semester to go and four more modules to overcome. One of those modules was my undergraduate major project, which was definitely the most challenging piece of work I was tasked with at university. Surprised? Once again, I found myself in the midst of a violent storm of assignments, and there was only one method of escape. I had to embrace it. I had to endure it. Eventually, the storm passed and I lived to fight another day. I will never forget when I used to stay up all night, desperately trying to finish off my dissertation. Initially, I thought my chosen topic was complicated and it took me a long time to understand the concepts. I had to do a lot of background reading. Despite those moments, I was very happy with the end product and I believe that I learned a lot about my topic. No project was ever going to be easy! When I submitted my last ever assignment in May, it was such an incredible feeling. It was hard to believe that I had survived that blazing inferno. I was so relieved and I could just not stop smiling. It was a wonderful day, the sun was shining brightly. I was in the mood to celebrate, and so I decided to catch the 4:50pm showing of “Avengers Assemble” at the cinema. It was great being able to watch it knowing that I had no more work to do! It was such a relaxing experience. For the first time in so many years, I was free.

June was a period of anxiety and uncertainty, as I waited for my last results that would ultimately decide my final grade. Fortunately, Euro 2012 was taking place and it was a welcome distraction. The day after England were eliminated from the tournament, I received my results. I had finished the year very strongly and I could not have been more happier. My official certificate came through the post in September, declaring my grade and the title of my degree. A month later, I attended my graduation ceremony. It was an amazing day, but also an emotional one. Those three years at Anglia Ruskin University will always be treasured for the rest of my life, and I want to thank everyone who made it such an enjoyable and memorable experience. I wish you all the best for the future!

Anyway, this review is not over. Not yet.

My review of 2012 will be split into multiple parts. In Part Two, I hope to briefly summarise my filmmaking adventures, my exciting journey to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and much more! Do NOT miss it. Thanks for reading!

Mid-2010 Review: Part Two

And I’m back again! Hope you haven’t missed me too much! Anyway, sorry for cutting my blog short yesterday, it was late at night and I had to wake up early today. For what? You’ll probably have a good idea what I’m talking about, I’ll come back to it later.

In the first part of my review, I briefly mentioned about how I did in one of my modules at university. As for the rest of my modules, I passed them all and obtained good results. Overall, it has been a successful first year and I’m very happy with my progress so far. Just like any typical student, I’ve had my ups and downs! Unfortunately, I had to deal with a massive workload towards the end of the second semester and I have to admit that my time management was poor, but university is all about learning from your mistakes and going forward. Hopefully, I will be able to make amends for next year and improve.

As for the social side of things at university, I’ve made many new friends and they have all been kind and helpful. If it wasn’t for you people, I would not have finished this year so strongly! I cannot thank you guys enough, you know who you all are! Roll on next year!

I have pretty much covered everything… apart from one thing. Interested in finding out what it is? Read the next blog!

Escape

For one of the modules that I was studying, I had to create a video using Second Life, which is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab. The program allows users to interact with one another using avatars.

Anyway, here is the video I made, along with Omar Lodhi and Mohammad Dinul Haque. We all provided the voices for the characters. This is my first ever 3D animation film and it’s in HD too!

A man wakes up to find himself in a room and is desperate to escape. However, he is confronted by two voices that are coming from the mysterious hole in the centre of the room…

Enjoy the film! Feel free to leave a comment too!

What Are Cataracts? – The Verdict

As this video was intended for my friends Maggie, Priya, Indu and Kim, they had to present this to their class and await feedback. Thankfully, they did really well and achieved an A-, which is fantastic! Many congratulations to you all!

Turns out a lot of people were impressed with the video, especially the fact that it was in HD. Looks like it made buying my HD camcorder all the worthwhile! Popularity seems to be soaring too, which is also very good news, the only way to continue raising your profile is to continue doing what you do best! Clearly, that means making more videos!

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I have finally finished my next project. Check out the next blog for more information!