My father, who is originally from Rangpur, came to the U.K. in the year 1962, six months after graduating from Dhaka Medical College. He began his hospital jobs over various locations in England, and in 1966 he married my mother (originally from Gopalganj). My elder brother was born shortly after, in Birmingham, and in 1974 my father settled down as a G.P. in Wolverhampton where both my second eldest brother and I were born.
My growing up years are full of the memories of my parents spending time with their Bangladeshi friends. These uncles and aunties and their children ensured that we had ties to our cultural roots and made us aware of our true identity. In a way, we never missed out on the love of our extended family in Bangladesh because of the love of our ‘deshi family’ in this country. We were very lucky that our parents formed these bonds and even now, as parents ourselves, we continue to nurture these relationships amongst the next generation.
My parents worked hard in ensuring that as a family we imbibed the rich culture of Bangladesh by involving us in a number of social events. My mother is a gifted singer and although she has no formal training, she can sing classical ‘Nazrul shongeet’ and is still well known for her amazing voice and performances in functions all across the U.K. My father (alongside being a very busy G.P.) was at the forefront of setting up a number of cultural societies, he was the President of the Bangladeshi Doctors Medical Association, the Dhaka Medical College Society, the Overseas Doctors Association and the Bangladesh Cultural Society. These social events often involved families from all over the U.K. coming together to celebrate important religious and historical events such as Eid, 21st February day, Victory day and Annual Summer events. I would participate in Bengali dramas, and from the age of 3, I also followed suit from my mother and began singing and dancing at all the functions that were held by these various groups. In fact I even performed on stage in school in an effort to expose my culture to my peers, and throughout university and thereafter, I have been known for always maintaining my dual cultural heritage.
I am very proud of my identity and origins. Both my paternal grandfather, my Dada, and my father’s eldest brother, my Boro Chacha, graduated from the University of Aligarh and became judges. I have tried to follow in their footsteps by qualifying as a barrister myself.
I am also very proud of the heritage of my Boro Fupa, Captain Mansur Ali, a politician and a lawyer, who played a large part in the independence of Bangladesh. He was jailed numerous times during the struggle and subsequent war, and he was a key member of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s cabinet within the Awami League. In 1975, he went on to become Prime Minister of Bangladesh and he paid the ultimate sacrifice when he was martyred in jail following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His sons are still ministers within the ruling party in Bangladesh now.
My father has also been very inspiring for me. He was in fact awarded an M.B.E in 2005 for his outstanding work in patient care. He has always been a benchmark for others and along with my family culture and heritage, I have had great role models, to look up to. I feel it is their influence which has helped me in becoming a forward-thinking, proud British Bangladeshi woman. I also feel an obligation to strive to follow their lead and take steps to support my community in this country and in Bangladesh. I believe we need to encourage young Bangladeshi women, to become educated and stand on their own feet. I aspire to see more cultural diversity in institutions such as the legal field and would encourage this as a way forward.
My wish is also to see my children reflect and represent their heritage and be as proud as I am of our roots. My husband, Mahbub, who is also a British Bangladeshi, is equally supportive of me as a wife and mother, and at the same time encourages me to have a career. We are both striving to make our own identities and increase the representation of our community within the professions we are both in.
However one thing I do regret is that both my son and daughter are unable to actually speak Bengali fluently as yet, mainly due to my husband and I communicating in English at home. This is something I do hope to change! I hope to be able to take them on more trips to Bangladesh, just as I had done while growing up. My summer holidays were filled with the memories of my relatives spoiling me with love and that is in essence why I felt I belonged there as much as I did here.