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Dip your toes in….

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Being born on the river banks of rural Bangladesh, I recall my early childhood, swimming in our lakes and rivers – it was an absolute joy.  I remember anxiously waiting for the Monsoon rains to come and when they did, I would sneak off to swim with my cousins. The rains would also transform the landscape to a watery wonder world.  Water was all you could see, with its water lilies and other plants.  I fondly remember going to visit my relatives by boat, which was thatched over in the middle to provide shelter.  The boat also had a sail to catch the wind.  We used to pick up the water lilies and eat them on our journey.  Sadly, these boats are rarely seen these days, they have been replaced with bigger boats with noisy engines.

I did not have the pleasure of seeing a traditional Nowka Bais in Bangladesh as I left the country when I was six years of age in 1976.  Friends and family members have told me of their joy during those periods as they used to participate.  There used to be a Mela atmosphere.  The boats were owned by rich landowners and they would bring them out after the harvest was in and the rains had come – it was a way to celebrate.  However, the custom has been in slow decline over the years as some of the rivers have now dried up and the modernisation of the country with more roads.

We are fortunate that Azizur Rahman has revived the sport in the UK.  He took the initiative in 2007 at Oxfordshire celebrating its 1,000th birthday with a focus on the waterways by transportive two traditional boats from Bangladesh to compete in the first Nowka Bais in UK.  Since then it has grown year on year.  This is the second year that Birmingham has hosted the 8th national Nowka Bais.  We have built on the success of last year and made the event bigger and better adding an evening gala dinner with traditional baul singers .  We have worked with Birmingham City Council and ensured that the Edgbaston Reservoir and its car park are for the sole use of the Nowka Bais.  

We have worked with Midlands Sailing Club and Edgbaston Watersports to put on taster rowing and sailing sessions.  Bangladeshi men often participate in Football, Badminton in the main with a growing number playing cricket.  We would like to add rowing to that list of sports on offer, to men and women.  We are supporting Midland Sailing Club, as they are struggling to engage  people from Black and Minority groups, as the sport is often seen as a middle class activity.  We are encouraging people to dip their toes into water sports.  I have now had two sailing sessions with my family and staff members, and on both occasions it has been exciting, especially when the wind catches your sail.

Whilst there are people from the Bangladeshi community that regularly exercise, there are many that don’t.  Which results in illness that range from type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular heart disease and others.  This cannot simply be blamed on a lack of exercise  – our diet has substantially changed for the worse over the years.  I recall my diet in Bangladesh, largely consisting of rice, vegetables and fish – chicken and other meat was rarely consumed.  These days it is not uncommon to eat rice, vegetables, fish, chicken and meat can be eaten in one sitting.  In addition, we have added fast food and fizzy drinks to our diet.  This is coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, all of which is having a detrimental effect on our health and well being.  The message is clear, we need to embrace our traditional roots, improve our diets and take up a regular sporting activity. Also with our recent phenomenal performance at Rio 2016, in particular in water based sports, diving, sailing, rowing and kayaking, the time has never been more apt for us to ‘dip our toes’. There are rowing and sailing clubs throughout the UK, who would welcome new members; I would encourage you to join them.

 

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