Explore the lives of Bengali and Sylheti-speaking communities living and working in the Cathedral and King St quarters of Norwich.
There are 14 excerpts in total for you to enjoy. You can download a Stories From the Quarter map here and embark on the walk yourself, or follow along online by listening to the story below. Explore Stories From the Quarter in full here →
Dr. Zahidur Rahman shares his journey through cities across the world before settling in Norwich as a consultant in acute and emergency medicine.
My name is Dr. Zahidur Rahman. I was born in Bangladesh on 30 November 1977. Sometimes I have to stay on call until 2am these days, but I still have to rise early, and usually wake to the sound of my alarm. I perform my ablutions, pray, and get ready, all the while also helping my kids to get ready while my wife Makhduma makes their breakfast. Sometimes I give them breakfast and Makhduma prepares them for school, sometimes it’s the other way around. Then we take the three of them to their separate schools. My eldest son Yashfin is twelve, he is a very smart kid who plays the guitar, and attends Langley School. Next is my daughter Yusra Muntaha, in class five at Norwich School, who taught herself to dance well by watching online tutorials. Arwa Sarwat, the youngest of our daughters, is aged four and a half, she attends the reception class at Cringleford. We are very proud of them. The Primary schools are near our home. The kids keep us very busy when they’re home, it’s only quiet when they’re at school! They are very obedient, sweet children. Their mother scolds them a little when needed, but I don’t. As a result, they are closer to their father, and a little too prone to cling to him! My son Yashfin often texts from his little mobile phone when I go to work at the hospital ‘Dad, I miss you.’ Then it becomes really difficult for me to focus on hospital work. When I come home, my children immediately surround me, they listen to whatever I tell them.
I am a doctor by profession. My school and college life was spent in Khulna, later I went to Chittagong to study medicine. I started my medical studies at Chittagong Medical College in 1995. After six years of medical college studies, I came to Dhaka for my post-graduation training. Once the two parts of my fellowship had been completed there, I was granted a scholarship in emergency medicine in Saudi Arabia. I had gotten married by that time, and after a month of marriage, my wife and I went to Saudi Arabia together. Next, I completed a fellowship in emergency medicine in Saudi Arabia. I came to the UK in 2011 and started my first job at Queen’s Hospital, in Romford. It was a non-training job. After working there for seven months, I came to Ipswich for further training, thinking it would give me a career advantage, as Ipswich was then a noted centre of Special Higher Training. For me there were three hospitals; Ipswich, Norwich James Paget and King’s Lynn Hospital. Later, I came to Norwich University Hospital in 2012, and it was there that I competed my final trainings. I became a consultant in emergency medicine in 2017, now I am working as a consultant in acute and emergency medicine.
My father died in 2007. My mother is alive, she is physically active, and able to do all her chores without anyone’s help. Due to her age, she is not as mentally alert as she once was. Maybe the fact that I live elsewhere is also a reason. My brothers take care of her. I feel the absence of mother keenly in every aspect of my life here. We are five brothers and two sisters, of which I am the youngest. My elder brother, Abdul Hannan Sheikh, works part-time in UNDP. He was a bright student of Dhaka University, Beijing University and University of Amsterdam, and even completed a PH.D. My second brother, Abdus Sobhan Sheikh, is a banker and a lawyer. He used to hold very high positions in Islami Bank, later he transitioned to Al Arafa Bank. He retired last month, and now he is thinking of going back to advocacy. My third brother, Abdul Wadud Sheikh, is working as Budget and Administrative Officer of Khulna City Corporation. My fourth brother is also a banker, working in Eastwest Bank in Khulna. Unfortunately, this brother of mine suffered a stroke a few years ago, as a result of which he is now quite weak and is unable to use his right arm and right leg. My sisters, Helena Parveen and Taslima, are busy with their families in Khulna.
Once, a friend and I lost our way while on a school picnic trip. No one could find us, neither could we find our way back. We were out of the house for two whole days. Eventually everyone found us. That’s a pretty funny memory. Now we meet up more frequently with our medical college friends than our school friends. This time, when I went to Bangladesh, we stayed at a resort in Gazipur with eight or ten friends. I was very happy. Thanks to Facebook, our circle of friends are all in regular contact with each other. Alumni of Chittagong Medical College in UK has a large alliance of one hundred doctors; I know everyone there, senior and junior alike. A few days ago, a three-day programme of alumni was held in London. We each went with our families and stayed at the hotel. The first day was a science seminar, followed by cultural programme, and then a gala dinner. The third day was a picnic.
Makhduma and I met for the first time at a family function. After that, we encountered each other again several times and felt strongly drawn towards each other. Without the consent of our families, the way forward would not be smooth, as Bengali families did not look kindly upon ‘love-marriages’ in those days. There would be obstacles. To avoid all those, we decided to convince Makhduma’s brothers first. After winning their consent, there was no further opposition from family, and we also stood firm in our decision. After the marriage took place, we got a good job offer outside our country, where neither of us had any family. And so we left for Saudi Arabia and built our first family life there, away from everyone. In our married life there have been happy quarrels and sad quarrels, just as in any marriages. But quarrels cannot ever keep us apart for long, we always make up again. I can’t hold a grudge or remain angry after a fight as I have to ask her to cook something when I’m hungry.
When we first came here, we didn’t know any Bengali families apart from Dr Tarek’s family. Gradually, many people came to know us in a professional capacity, which soon led to our mingling with them socially also. Now our social circle is considerably wider, and our days in Norwich are filled with friendship, laughter and merry making.
Dr Zahidur Rahman was born in Bangladesh in 1977. He started his medical studies at Chittagong Medical College, and furthered his training in Saudi Arabia, before arriving in the UK in 2011. A doctor by profession, he has worked in hospitals in Romford, Ipswich and Norwich, and now works as a consultant in acute and emergency medicine.
Stories From the Quarter is a National Centre for Writing project in partnership with Norfolk Record Office, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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