From the life of Angur Miah
By Michael Pudney
The New Life and Wilson’s Equal Opportunities
Everybody should have an equal chance – but they shouldn’t have a flying start.
– Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister 1964–1970, 1974–1976
In the small town of Syllet, around 200 miles north of Dhaka, Fate was catching some sun. It had been a busy week for her, keeping a mindful eye on the Liberation War in Bangladesh, ensuring that fate would help bring that to an end – as was her job. But she also had a few ‘odds and sods’ to attend to. Today, Fate was to ensure that fate was on the side of Angur as he was leaving for London, and her omniscient presence was required. She’d seen the itinerary: he needed to travel 10,000km to meet his uncle on the other side and start a new life. She lifted herself away from the peaceful beach and headed over to Angur’s humble home just in time to watch him pick up his suitcase and hug his mother and father goodbye. It was precious moments such as this in which Fate knew she would try her best to ensure fate was on the person’s side. Fate had helped a rising number of Bangladeshis move to London in recent years, and Fate would help where she could. Through the connection of his uncle already based in London, a Principal as a matter of fact (Fate remembered helping him out with that one), Angur was set up to see The Big Smoke (Fate had heard all the nicknames over the years). A large contingency of Pakistanis and Maltese were also making their way to the industrial smoggy concrete block that was East London.
Fate got Angur over to the UK safely and as his uncle embraced him at the station, she knew she could leave Angur to it. Of course, she would check in on him every now and again; she took pleasure in her work so wanted to visit the people she had helped. Angur’s uncle set him up in Aldgate, and within a year Angur had found himself a job working at a factory which produced men’s blazers. The Pakistanis were a nice enough bunch, but there seemed to be an ongoing dispute with the People of Malta. Fate had helped many of the Maltese people move over to the UK, and there had always seemed to be conflict with those and the Pakistanis. Fate didn’t know why all this horseplay occurred, but it wasn’t her job to manage that, it was up to her colleague, Destiny, to decide how all of that would pan out. When Angur’s uncle advised Angur that the streets of London could be a dangerous place, Fate knew he was in good hands. Her work here was done.
The Skinheads and Thatcher’s Bleak Society
There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.
– Margaret Thatcher, 1979–1990
“Paki! Oi, Paki!” they shouted from the other side of the road. Angur was now accustomed to abuse from the group of boys and men in Doctor Marten boots, skinny jeans and white t-shirts. Usually it would subside, but today they were in the mood to cross the road and further intimidate the seventeen year old.
“Where you off to, Paki?” Angur looked to the ground and tried to maintain his path. “Back to Pakiland with any luck,” one of the gang joked to his mates as he tugged on his braces. Angur continued to focus on the pavement and the shuffling of Doc Martens circling him like vultures. Angur sub-consciously clutched his bag tighter, which didn’t go unnoticed. “Oi, Paki scum, what you got in there, eh? Curry?” The four predators laughed at this one. Another gang member, no older than Angur himself, stripped him of his bag. Angur made a feeble attempt to get it back, until one of the older skinheads shoved him in the chest, knocking him to the floor. Angur watched from the floor as the younger skinhead rummaged through his more or less empty bag, only holding his empty lunch box. The one who shoved him had the word ENGLAND tattooed on his forehead, accompanied by a thick Swastika printed on his Adam’s apple.
They threw his lunch box and bag on the floor when they realised there was nothing of value, then they got a call from the other side of the road, beckoning them away, to Angur’s relief. Another of the skinheads lit a fag then flicked the match at Angur’s face, “get out of my country, Paki,” were his parting words; all Angur could think as they walked away was that he wasn’t a ‘Paki’ at all — he was from Bangladesh.
The Mugging and Major’s Respect for the Law
In housing in the fifties in Britain and the sixties, we pulled down the terraces – destroyed whole communities and replaced them with tower blocks and we built walkways that became rat-runs for muggers. That was the fashionable opinion. But it was wrong.
It is time to return to core values, time to get back to basics, to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for the others, to accepting responsibility for yourself and your family.
John Major, 1990–1997
You pull your coat closer around your shivering frame, reminding yourself that you’ve had this coat for years – the only item of clothing your dad has actually picked out for you and you’ve liked; Angur’s never been much of a fashionista, you smile to yourself. The thirty children you dismissed an hour ago still make the classroom stuffy and uncomfortable, so as you step outside, it makes it even colder than you are prepared for. As you head off home, you watch your own breath scatter away into the night time.
You remember that you owe a tenner to your dad so decide to take a quick detour to the cash machine. You’re not overly cautious, but Angur has always taught you to keep one eye on your surroundings, always harking back to the ‘Skinhead days’ as examples of being street smart, so you casually do a quick sweep of the street. The street is as empty as it is dark. You push the card into the machine and the grind of the plastic is the only noise in the street until the flick of metal and the words, “don’t fucking move,” fill the air. You freeze because it’s the only thing you can do. You feel footsteps edging closer and something sharp press up against your thick coat, enough for you to take an educated guess as to what it could be. As the knife digs further in, a boy comes into sight. There are two of them.
“Take out your money, bitch. All of it.” You recognise instantly that they are Bangladeshi from the accent, the way they look, and that you recognise these kids from the neighbourhood. It’s another insult to you when you realise they are almost half your age, 17 and 21. You try to control your pulsing heart rate to not show the fear that’s crawling all over your body; you decide that the older one is in charge of the knife while the younger kid is the negotiator. You have to moisten your throat; otherwise no words can come out. “What you waiting for? Give me your money!” He leans in close enough for you to smell stale vodka in his breath.
“Okay, okay,” you finally squeal. You panic that you suddenly can’t remember your pin number, and can feel the boys smirking at each other. Luckily, your fingers move instinctively across the pad and then you realise you have to tell them something. Terrified, you mumble, “I can only take out a maximum of £250.” The older one leans in from behind, piercing the knife through your coat and into your jumper.
“Well I suggest you get out £250, then.”
There are breathless seconds of silence as you pray for the machine to do its job. Never before have you wanted the machine to work so much faster – those few seconds are taking hours. The boys’ visible breath surrounds you and no sooner does the money come out than the younger boy snatches it from the machine. However, the knife still remains, and so you stay, pressed up against the ATM, which is now thanking you for your visit, and telling you to have a nice day. “If you ever tell anyone about this I’m gonna fucking kill you. Get it?” You just nod as they back away. It’s all you can do. They disappear around the corner, and your legs give way. You sink to the ground to breathe for the first time.
Stroke Life and Cameron’s NHS Promise
Our NHS should always be the best. That means getting the best care and making that care available for everyone – free – wherever they are and whenever they need it.
Let’s assess the NHS over the last 5 years. Thanks to the incredibly hard work of our NHS staff, the Commonwealth Fund ranked our health service as the best in its recent international study.
David Cameron, 2010–present
I’d done it a thousand times and, as ever, the shopping felt as light as a feather. Heading back home from grabbing some shopping for dinner, from nowhere, the bags began to weigh down on me like I was hauling rocks. At the same time, my legs slowed down, almost to a stop. I tried to grip the bags as I struggled to stay upright, but my brain wasn’t getting the message to my body in this very out-of-body experience. My world closed in on me in a messy blur. I caught the vague image of a man asking if I was okay. I don’t know what I said, but I knew he then caught me.
I woke up in a bed with a nurse, doctor and the man who caught me standing over me. I asked where my shopping was, and the man joked that my apples were probably still rolling down the street. I was later told that another girl called an ambulance for me and in two minutes, the sirens were taking me to hospital. Any longer, and I could have died.
I’d had a stroke, and 21 days later, was released from the rehabilitation centre in Mile End. I lost control over the right side of my body and my speech was slurred. I could only describe it as my body being abducted, but my mind still remained; it made it all confusing and frustrating. I had to learn to walk again, to use my hand again, to speak again. At 57 years old, this was now my life. But it wasn’t just my life which had been affected. My wife and close family needed to adapt to this ‘new me’. They truly were a shoulder of support I have been so lucky to able to rely on.
As I slowly improved, I felt it a valuable privilege to help those in a similar position to me. I attended, and still do attend, rehabilitation groups; events which are set up to improve the lives of stroke patients. It makes me feel connected, a sense of giving back. I felt it important to do what I can for Tower Hamlets NHS Community Group – the team that saved my life and built me back up to the man I was before my apples rolled down the street. I visit the ward and give hope to others. On one of my regular trips I was confronted by a young lady, frustrated with her new life.
“I can’t do this anymore Angur, I can’t go on living this life.”
“No, no, no.” I wouldn’t accept it. “Look at me: I’ve had a stroke, and I’m fit again. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. My god, girl, you have to get married, get a career. You can’t give up.”
There were the low points, naturally. At times, I doubted myself that I’d ever be the old me again. I once asked the Doctor, a man I trusted and followed, whether I would ever make a full recovery.
“For every hundred people, five people fully recover. You are eighty per cent recovered. Most people range from forty to seventy per cent,” he explained. He quoted like a politician which reminded me of all those people at the top I’d seen come and go, Major, Thatcher, Wilson, Cameron and all the other lot, and what had I learnt from them at this time of reflection in my life?
Patience. You have to be patient. I replied to my Doctor, “When you make tea it takes you five minutes; when I make tea, it takes fifteen minutes.”
I have had many experiences, many lives. But this is now my life. This is my stroke life.