Shahida's Blog

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My Publishing Journey

I’m a Cambridge based author, born and raised there. My father came from East Pakistan, (now Bangladesh) in 1957 and settled there. My father set up one of the first Indian restaurants in Cambridge in 1963. My mother came over in 1963, I was born two days after East Pakistan became Bangladesh. I have three older brothers and a younger twin sister. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 25.

I never planned to become an author. I was married off at the age of 18 in Bangladesh.  I now have four children; three sons Ibrahim, Imran , Aniq and a daughter Aminah. I started writing in 2003, after my daughter was born.  Let me tell you about my roller-coaster publishing journey.

I decided to write about a subject very close to my heart. It is the story of my son who grew up with a learning disorder. Ibrahim grew up with mild autism. He had a severe speech disorder; Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder.  Children with semantic difficulties have a very hard time understanding the meaning of words and sentences. He had difficulty understanding social situations and did not know what was expected of him.

I kept records of all of his reports. I wrote down Ibrahim’s difficulties and decided to turn it into a book. Autism wasn’t widely recognised in the Asian community in the 1990s. I couldn’t compare Ibrahim to any other child with autism in the Bangladeshi community. I felt very isolated. I also wanted to tell his story for other mothers who may be in a similar situation. I wanted to be heard, I felt that no one was listening to me. I was going through a difficult time with Ibrahim.

I tried many different publishers but soon discovered that it wouldn’t be published by a conventional publisher.  I wanted it published no matter what.  After much through and consideration I decided to self-publish, Self-publishing means when the author pays the publisher to publish the book.  So I launched my own publishing company, Perfect Publishers in 2005 with my brother  Kal and published my book, ‘Ibrahim – Where in the Spectrum Does He Belong?’ We publish books for authors who wish to self-publish,  I run my business from home, work around my children, choose the hours I wish to work and don’t have to answer to anyone! Be my own boss!   Yay! We all want that, don’t we! We outsource most of our work. We have a team of editors and graphic designers and they all work from home too. So we contact them via email. Although I have made mistakes and learnt from them. Some were costly mistakes! Ouch! How can you learn the trade without mistakes?!

Ibrahim is now 22. He has overcome most of his difficulties. He graduated from University last year; a major achievement in his life. His graduation day last year was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I don’t think I ever had a day like it!!

Self-publishing takes a lot of hard work and effort. It was hard to get my book out there especially being an unknown author.  That was the start of my publishing journey.

Next blog: Part 2 Climbing the publishing ladder

Published on Asiana online:

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The 15th annual Boishakhi Mela (Bengali: বৈশাখীমেলা)took place on Sunday 12th May 2013. The event is a celebration of the Bengali New Year with music and cultural events. The Bengali New Year falls on 14/15 April. The event always takes place in May, as April tends to have a high risk of rain.  It is the largest open-air Asian festival in Europe. It was previously hosted at Weavers Fields, Brick Lane, London.  After the Notting Hill Carnival, it is the second-largest street festival in the UK attracting over 80,000 visitors from around the country. This year, it was held for the first time in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London to attract a larger audience but the number of visitors failed to match previous years.

The parade kicked off from Weavers Field with dancers, performers featuring local school children and local groups, showcasing vibrant colours, music and culture. Celebrating cultural diversity, the event was shown live on the NTV channel (Sky 852) and was hosted by BBC Asian Network presenter Nadia Ali.

Some of the biggest names in Bengali music took to the stage including Bappi Lahiri, a music director in the Hindi film industry, Liza, S I Tultul and others.  10 finalists of the ‘Boishakhi Star 2013’ also performed live on stage. Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, also made an appearance at the Mela.

Market stalls complimented the Mela with Asian snacks, drinks, arts, crafts, jewellery and clothing. To celebrate 50 years of Tollyboy rice (one of the bestselling brands of rice in the UK today), visitors were treated with free sample bags of long grain and basmati rice. The demand was high.

Funds were being raised for the Beani Bazar Cancer hospital project in Bangladesh, the first-ever comprehensive cancer hospital in Sylhet. Author, Shahida Rahman, was also signing copies of her historical novel ‘Lascar’.

Wind and rain swept in by the mid-afternoon, but that failed to dampen the party atmosphere. Organisers of the event say, ‘The blend of multicultural performers and activities will ensure integration of people of different ages and ethnicities to come together and improve community cohesion through culture and celebration.’

Anu Sidhu, a student, is a regular attendee of the Mela. ‘I love coming here every year and enjoy the sights, tastes and smells! It is like being in Bangladesh for a short while,’ he said.

Published in ‘Asian World’ newspaper, June 2013

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