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Sarees and suits

October 2, 2019

The British Bangladeshi Power Inspiration (BBPI) have been established for ten years.  On an annual basis they create a list of 100 inspirational people from the Bangladeshi community from various disciplines.  They have an annual celebration event where people come dressed in their finest sarees and suit’s.

Last year I made the BBPI list along with a number of colleagues from Birmingham.  My little sister, Shapali Khatun was featured as a member of the Armed Forces.  I was a little over whelmed and humbled by the honour of making of being added.  I was invited to the event and was excited at the prospect of meeting so many inspirational people.

So when the night arrived, I donned my three peice suit with my best shirt and tie.  I set myself a target to connect with at least one person.  I met a few people on the night and I was really impressed by the calibre of people…and I was wondering why am I here?  I met Dr Moe Rahman who is a Criminologist and he was in the process of launching his book. As it happened, he was from Birmingham and only 27 years of age at the time…he immediately became my role model and I told him ‘when I grow up, I want to be like you’. On a serious note, we have become friends and he is supporting me with my aspirations to pursue a PHD. So he was the one contact that I made…mission accomplished.

Shah, me, Shezan, Sotez and Shale

Fast forward to this year’s garden party. I chose a more relaxed attire on this occasion…but more importantly, I was traveling to London with Shale, Shezan and Shah. All of them are inspiring young people (well, they are younger than me…). Shale runs Aspire & Succeed and his family own Shazanz Kebab House on Lozells road. They are famous for adding a twist to traditional fast food, more importantly they support lots of community events. Shezan is a leading lawyer and with his wife owns four Nurseries, they are self-made couple. Shah owns Skytech, a computer recycling business that he has developed into a market leader and is attracting business from across Europe.

The connection I have with Shale and Shezan are deep as they both used to come to my youth club…I am hoping I’ve inspired them along the way. My link with Shah is, as a football coach nearly three decades ago.  I hope I’ve inspired him as we are both still playing football.

We had planned to leave at 2:30pm but in good fashion Bangla timing we left an hour later and then Shale managed to miss the M1. So we had a lovely scenic route through Northampton and London traffic. We hoped to have arrived for 630pm at the start, however, we managed to get there for 8pm. When we got there, it was lovely to see some familiar faces and meet new people. The women were dressed in beautiful sarees and the men in suits. Ayesha had the best saree in my opinion and looked absolutely beautiful.

Ayesha and Bably

Sohini Alam sang at last year’s event and I was blown away. I have been trying to bring her to Birmingham to perform and I am still working on that. I had a nice chat with Sohini. She told me her training is in Nozrul Gheeti and we are exploring the possibility of bringing an artist from Bangladesh for a collaborative performance.

Sohini & me…

I met Auropa AKA Bably, her Bangla dhak naam. She impressed me with her style and what she does. She is design and branding specialised. We discussed our shared interests in branding and talked about our families. As it happens, we both have two daughters of similar age. We have since been in touch and are arranging a meet up.

 Towards the end of the event there was obligatory photo shoots, where everyone looked awesome. After the event, we were invited to a post event bite and sheesha. I sat by Ayesha and I discussed the frustrations that I have with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the lack of diversity. She said they had similar issues in the London Olympics.  She said the Olympic team showed her a photo of black staff, however, they were all catering staff. She said they campaigned against the injustice and in the end they set up a diversity and inclusion board. The board met every two weeks to review progress. That sounds like a good idea for Birmingham.  The gentleman next to Ayesha happened to work for the Foreign Commonwealth Office and part of his remit was reporting to the DCMS Minister. I asked him, what the best way to raise my concerns would be? He said the best option would be via my local MP…so, I will be writing a letter to Jess Philips. 

Reflecting on the evening, it appears that amidst the sarees and suits and everyone’s desire to look good. There was some serious work being done. The power of networks is not to be underestimated. The recent BBC documentary by Amal Rajan on How To Break Into The Elite, discussed the power of networks and how poorer people don’t have the same networks or opportunities. In Birmingham, I play a role of bringing likeminded people together and creating opportunities for young people. I get comments like, ‘my daughter wants to be a Dentist, but she is unable to find work experience’. As it happens, the football team that I manage has two brothers that are Dentists, so I’ve managed to arrange the work experience. One of the girls I have arranged work experience for, has now enrolled to University to pursue her dreams of becoming a Dentist.

There are serious issues around under employment for people in the Bangladeshi community. One of my friend’s son has a first class degree from London LSE in Mathematics and he has struggled to find suitable employment, last time I checked he was volunteering with a local accounts firm. All his white counterparts managed to get graduate jobs before they even left University. So the work of BBPI is crucial in creating connections that often lead to opportunities and friendship. I am grateful to the inspirational work that is being done by Ayesha and Abdal….and they do it in style wearing sarees and suits.

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