Day Twenty Four – The BAME Position

It’s been over three weeks and it looks like we are in this for until the end of May. Boris has left hospital, Trump has declared war with WHO and withdrawn US funding, whilst some European countries like Denmark and Germany look at relaxing their lockdown restrictions.  None has been without its criticism. What started off as a united front from the country, is now beginning to show cracks- which comes as no surprise. The Lockdown is beginning to divide the nation, with some wanting it to continue whilst others just wish it will all end. Supermarkets are no longer busy with hoarders but social unrest and questions do seem to be showing. This week twenty 5G masts were damaged here in the UK, proving that the 5G conspiracy is not going away anytime soon.  People are becoming highly critical of government and rumours are circulating that a new vaccine will have an implant that is going to track people for a future new world order.

The news of 12000 plus deaths setting the UK on the course to be the worst hit country in Europe of this Convid 19 Pandemic, has led people to be more paranoid and scared of what the future might hold.  Amongst the many wild views and conspiracy theories, there is one that is highlighted above else and touched upon by the media. That is the rate of victims and death of those from BAME backgrounds and how it is higher than average, compared to the Caucasian population.

What does this mean? Is this some genetically engineered virus that is promoting the white colonial spirit, which has been engineered to attack people of Black and Asian backgrounds?  It is quite an easy conspiracy to get on board with, especially to those who have been victims of colonial past and the Anglo- Saxon rule of the world. To put it simply the answer is, a big fat No! If this unseen virus was somehow designed to kill and maim people of a certain ethnic background – in this case  Asian and Black. Then the continents of Asia and Africa would be the worst of hit by now. So why do you ask we have a high proportion of people from BAME backgrounds falling victims to COVID- 19? It’s simple and already been answered by many. People from BAME backgrounds in the West, especially countries like the UK, mainly live in densely populated cities, with close communities and intergenerational family infrastructure.  Along with that, many come from poor backgrounds, which equates to poor health, not to mention many account for the essential front line jobs that is vital to the UK economy.  All of which is bad potent for this virus, as the only way to not get affected by Covid 19 is to socially isolate, be in good health and stay away from people.   This pandemic has exposed the way the UK society has been functioning and exposed more deep rooted historical issues embedded into British society, which now needs to be evaluated by everyone. Especially people from BAME backgrounds and now is the right time to make cultural and belief changes.

There are no secrets of the dark side of the British empire, you only have to pick up a book or watch a documentary, to find out, what is now common knowledge. Both the US and UK had to rely on slavery to build their countries, to build the infrastructure of the nations we have now come to live in.  Workers torn away from their homelands without or little choice, to come and carry out menial jobs for absolute peanuts.  Yes, we have heard the apologies, read the books, seen the legislations put in place for decades for them to try and correct their choices, put the dark side of history behind them and move forward.  But has things really changed?

We seem to almost take pride in saying how immigrants are the backbones of this country, in order to prove our worth and value and justification to live in this country.  Whenever we have been faced with racist or xenophobic commentary, more so since Brexit. Almost as if we have accepted the immigrant position in this country, as those that carry out the most essential jobs and that is the reason they should be valued.

In this lockdown, we have celebrated far too often, the fact that most of the essential key workers, front line staff such as supermarket workers, cab drivers, couriers, delivery drivers and nurses are from BAME background and how important it is that we remember their contribution, after we move on from this pandemic.  But should we be encouraging this type of mindset?  By celebrating immigrants and people from BAME migrants as essential key workers, are we only just enabling the current narrative to continue? A narrative which has been playing for centuries, where people of colour are here to serve the native white people of this country? Why is it still after all this time, especially in an iconic city like London, one of the most developed, progressive and financial powerhouse of the world, do we still have large number of BAME background people who are carrying out essential front line jobs? This pandemic has exposed further the colonial strategies that still exist within this system and unless this changes, when another catastrophe happens, people from the minority will be a majority of the victims and front line martyrs.

Yes it is important to celebrate BAME and Immigrant contribution in a country like UK where majority are of white background, but it is also important that we do not limit ourselves to just celebrate our achievements to essential and front line jobs, which allows the inequality to carry on.

Stay Safe, Stay Home.

Day Twenty – Easter Lockdown

It’s an Easter weekend like no other. 26 degrees outside, like its mid-July with no sign of the sun going away anytime soon.  For the last 20 days, every day seemed like a bank holiday, ripping away the excitement and joy of the four day weekend we all love and anticipate every year. It’s sad to see colourful chocolate Easter eggs rotting away at supermarkets shelves. Unlike previous years, where we grabbed the special offers and scoffed it down and went out and got some more. This year the public seem to be more concern about stocking up on essentials and not idle confectionaries. The sun coming out, has does little to boost morale, as we stay stuck indoors, wishing we were out there, in the park, buying an ice cream and going to a restaurant with the kids. The things we casually did during bank holidays that now seem so strange and alien. A part of you wonders if the pre-pandemic status quo, will ever return?

The death toll is getting grim with record death reported every day, no one is exempt, as this week we saw more NHS doctors and medical staff, fall victim to Covid -19,  making the public feel more anxious. With no hopes of the lockdown ending anytime soon, more and more people are criticising the government, angry, frustrated with a feeling of betrayal. The thought the government could have somehow saved this situation or could have done better by earlier intervention or doing more now, seems to be the consensus.  You can feel the people’s emotions, but can also see through it too.  Anger has to be channelled towards something and the government is always going to be public enemy numero one.

Unlike other threats, this is an invisible enemy, no terrorist group, country, business, ideology or political groups can be blamed, so people take the blame to the government. As if somehow the government could have prevented microbes- the tiniest living organisms in the world, to stop coming into the atmosphere-. Nature is hard to be angry at, so we become unreasonable in our human quest to blame something.  But you can understand the anger, so you have to let them release it. In some countries, people are blaming Doctors instead of government- the ever struggle doctors face universally to play God.

Viral videos have surfacing of people policing other people in all parts of the world. Some with sticks and batons and here in UK with emotional words of anger, like somehow, they are heroic in doing so.  It only reminds me of how easy it is for people to undermined civil liberty and drag themselves into authoritarian rule.  A part of me can’t help to think, that the government are observing this current situation and taking notes out of this tragedy for future references. Getting one of the most free and democratic countries of this world to become a police state this quick, is no easy task and no doubt it has already given them ideas on how they can garner support for similar scenarios in the future.

I stared into the clear sky, at night, it felt weird, there were no artificial stars any more. Aeroplanes soaring in the sky, which I was so used to seeing, leaving a trail of light behind them, nowhere to be seen. During my jog during the day, the water from the Thames looked calm running under the famous bridges, like never before. I soak it all up, because I know, this is a one in a billion scenario, I will never see London like this ever again. Sun shining, clear blue skies and quiet in complete serenity.

This weekend was supposed to be the last weekend of the lockdown, but we are good month away from any clear answers. Sitting at home, scouring through the internet, putting off jobs that you no longer have an excuse not to do, seem like the new normal. Long lost connections are being forged and maybe people are talking to each other more over the phones but there is apprehension.  Even with all of this, we are divided about what is happening.

So we move on with our own faiths and beliefs and try to find solace with it all, with our own coping mechanism. Some have resorted to social media, some have retreated to reading books, some are busy showing the world how the lockdown is a positive. But whatever people are doing, for the first time I feel deep in the core of it all, their lies real anxiety and fear. What if this is the new status quo for the foreseeable future? What if February 2020, was the last of that era and things have taken an U- turn, that will take at least two generations to regenerate?

Happy Easter, Stay Safe.


Day Eighteen – Is Lockdown for the Privilege?

Since Covid 19 became a pandemic, many of us have been quick to point out how this virus has connected us together as country and a global community. The leaders of the world have held nothing back as they continue to tell us how we are all in this together and that we are all going to have to make the same sacrifices to protect lives. Although, the most vulnerable people of our global population seem to be the hardest hit, it seems, unlike any other threats, Covid 19 doesn’t discriminate, who these vulnerable people are.

Since January, we have watched it sweep its way through the working, middle and upper class taking no names and certainly no numbers. High profile politicians in Iran had died from it, Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau had to isolate, Hollywood legend Tom Hanks even had it, it even hit our monarchy with Prince Charles declaring he was infected and of course the most famous and important one of them all, our very own PM, Boris Johnson is hospitalised because of it.  It was the final proof we all needed, that this isn’t an illness that targeted a certain section of society, unlike other diseases, it was targeting everyone.

For many, it was an opportunity to scream from the top of their voice, how this is further evidence, that we are indeed a global community and we are in it together and we can defeat it together by doing one simple thing – Stay Home. But is Covid 19 really an indiscriminate virus that has managed to pull together the global community or is it just merely exposing the deep inequalities we have in this world and in fact the most discriminatory type of disease we have ever come across.

In the middle of March when we were heading into partial lockdown, there were some States in the US, who had already gone into lockdown. I remember watching a video on Facebook, by one of my all time heroes, none other than The Terminator himself – Arnold Schwartznegger.  In the video with a cigar in his mouth and donning a grey beard, he strolled around his mansion equipped with a gym and swimming pool. He was encouraging people to stay at home, while showing us all, what he will be doing at home, during the lockdown and how people can keep busy by doing what he does. I remember thinking just how out of touch he must be with the common folk. To be bold Arnie, if I had a mansion with a pool, sauna and my own personal gym in sunny California? I would be in lockdown all my life. It got me thinking deeper into this. As the days and week passed, I came across videos on Tik Tok, You Tube and Facebook, of the many different ways people are enjoying and making the most of their time in lockdown. What was very clear to me, is the contrast of privileges across the globe and our country. So, while the middle class parents, such as myself, happily share pictures of our home office, our rainbow flags drawn by our kids in their terrific homeschooling.  The single people show of their latest yoga poses or home fitness routine in their large open space and the Gamers record their next video game for their growing subscribers on You Tube.  There is a dark and sinister side to all of this that people are not seeing.  A cruel picture which shows the real inequalities of the society we have built upon ourselves and why lockdown isn’t a Universal utopian answer, as it is to some. Like it or not, if you are enjoying, benefiting or can be in lockdown with little to no major effect in your life, you are the privileged one.

As you work from home, you must remember this is a privilege that not many can afford. Since March, we have come across terms such as Essential Workers and Key Workers which are really just names to sugar coat the social inequalities that we have in our job market. We have sexed up the delivery person, shop workers, front line workers, calling them heroes, giving them a false sense of hope and validation, making it out like they have a choice to be out there, but really they don’t.  It might be a rude awakening, but many workers in the front line such as shop keepers, supermarket assistants, cleaners, are not doing these jobs to be heroes, they are doing it to get paid.  If they had the option to work from home, many would. But since their industry is at the height of production at the moment, they can’t refuse to work without losing their income.

As someone who works with vulnerable families, I know families who live in overcrowded social housing flats, with numerous children that have nowhere to go outside or have adequate space inside their homes to learn or just be a normal child.  So whilst some of us, including myself, have only two kids and have the luxury of a back and front garden with high speed 24/7 internet connected to my home and be able to afford subscriptions to Netflix and Disney Plus to keep my kids entertained. I have to remind myself, there are a large number of families who do not have these privileges.

Calls to domestic violence line have soared since the lockdown, there are great fears that children under social services are more vulnerable to their abusers, mental, sexual and physical. A great rise in food banks globally for families that have lost incomes and now resorting to food from charities. Unemployment benefits rising by the millions as more and more people lose their jobs. Is it such a surprise then, when a new survey reported that 15% of this country’s population is feeling the stress of the lockdown and that it is likely to increase by a further 10% the further it is imposed.

This global pandemic has brought the global community together in a lot of ways. It has allowed us to appreciate and question the material things we put value on, but it has also deeply highlighted our society’s problems.  Majority of the people who have been severely or fatally infected by Covid 19 had previous poor underlining health issues, issues which were caused by poverty. You can call low paid front line workers heroes all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact, they are out risking their lives, doing a job many of us will not do and they are only doing, in the fear of losing their livelihood.

It’s not just a UK problem, being from a Bangladeshi family. I have read and watched news about the lockdown situation in South East Asia. There are rickshaw drivers, garment workers, food vendors and farmers, who are ready to defy lockdown and risk getting Covid 19 rather than die of starvation. These are workers who don’t belong to a welfare state, unions, they do not have savings, they do not have investments, or part of any protected wages schemes. They earn each day and take home what they make, for them lockdown simply doesn’t work.

So, yes, even though Boris might be in the same hospital as Mr Ali from Forest Gate or Dave from Dagenham, receiving the same treatment by the same high level of professionals nurses and doctors.  It might make great headlines, how we are all the same when it comes to this pandemic.  The real story starts when they are discharged. Boris and others like him, will return to a job, a house, a lifestyle that will allow them to carry on lockdown in the comfort of their video calling, internet streaming, nice garden and comfy deck chairs.  Whilst  Mr Ali or Dave will be returning to their social housing with a small balcony, cramped space and overcrowded bedrooms,  with very little to do.

Lockdown UK is not for everyone, it was a necessity but it can’t work for too long. It is not a system the people of this country were built for, we are not a totalitarian regime and for those of us who can still live our lives quite comfortably, we are certainly in a point of privilege and not necessarily at a point of sacrifice.

Day Sixteen – Butterfly Effect- What If?

Every day in this pandemic, we are being faced with more plot twists than a M Night Shaymalan film. To the extent where nothing seems to be a shock anymore. Yesterday, Boris Johnson was admitted to an ICU, as his symptoms from Covid 19 worsen. Not much has been told to us -the public, apart from he is doing well, which comes as no surprise. It will be typical government strategy to not let slip out anything that will cause panic to an already fragile population. In any other time or scenario, the PM being in a possible life threatening condition, would shock the country to its core. But, in this current day, it scarily seems ok, like another hard battle in this god forsaken war we have found ourselves in.

I feel sorry for Boris, I’ve never been a fan of many Tory policies, or the bumbling buffoon, but I kind of liked the guy for his absurd nonsense from time to time. That jolly old posh fool, who finds it hard to string two sentences together without offending someone or something, that everyone somehow seems to let him off for. But I don’t wish the guy any harm. In fact a sense of sadness came over me, hearing the news, that the leader of our country, regardless of what many may think of him, is in the state that he is.

Sitting here in lockdown, it got me thinking of how it even came to this stage, how he got to where he is now and even if he should be there? It seems almost by chance everything happened the way it did.

The Butterfly Effect is a term used to describe how the slightest of changes can go on to have a huge consequence or result. It is believed that something as minute as a flap of the wings from a butterfly, can go on to cause a Tornado. It seems fitting I should be thinking about this, since it is something even smaller than a flap of a butterfly’s wing (in this case microbes), that is currently causing this global mayhem.

What has this got to do with Boris? It maybe hard to imagine, but 2020, should have been the year, we were meant to have our next official General Election, as in line with election law.  But things have drastically changed since May 2015, when the Tories surprised even themselves and won a majority with David Cameron continuing his reign as PM.  If everything had taken its suggestive normal course, he would have still been our PM and we should have got ready to vote again sometimes this May.  But since, we have had an EU Referendum, two general elections and two different PMs, representing one of the most extreme, right wing, elitist and nationalist Conservative Party we have seen in over a century. And on the flip side we have had an almost near socialist revolution with Jeremy Corbyn.

For anyone who doesn’t follow politics, I can tell you this much, the things which have happened in the last five years, almost makes it seem like we have woken up in a parallel universe. Somewhere, somehow, a butterfly must have flapped his wings wrong.  So where can we trace this back to?

Could it be all the way back to the 2008 Financial Crisis? Could it be the transfer of power from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown as PM of the country back in 2007? Gordon Brown with all his great knowledge and excellent financial skills, never quite had the charisma to convince the public who were bearing the brunt of the financial crisis, to support a new five years of Labour government. At the same time, David Cameron, found himself in the same position. The result was one of the most unlikely partnership in the history of UK, a Con Lib coalition that ran the country for the next five years and declaring austerity.

As the right wing of the country gained more power and voices calling for an exit from the EU getting louder. Labour members through the support of the Unions somehow elected Ed Milliband as their leader and PM candidate instead of his highly tipped and more strategic brother David Milliband.

We all know Cameron only agreed, to the EU Referendum, after giving into the extreme right of his party and to win a majority in the next election. He assumed it would be a walk in the park for him, after all, the UK public will never vote to leave the EU, right?

Thanks to the referendum, we saw terms like Brexit appear on our vocabulary, which dominated our lives for over three years, we saw our country divide, another two general election, which eventually  got Boris elected as the PM.

But what if things were different? What if David Milliband did win the Labour leadership in 2010? He had polices, the support and the strategy of a true Blairite.  He could have challenged Cameron better than his brother Ed and maybe even gone onto win the GE in 2015. Therefore, leading this country into a whole new direction. I only say this, because since the 2009 GE, every game changing votes have been won on a margin and a little push could have changed everything.

What if Cameron decided to stay as PM after the Brexit vote? Would there new leadership challenge in the party? Would  Boris even had Covid 19, seeing as though it most likely he got infected doing prime ministerial duties, which he wouldn’t be doing and even if he did. Would it matter to us as it does now? Would we feel sorry for the guy? Would we even know names like Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak. Cameron would most likely not give into the right wing and keep his centre focus Cabinet Ministers. We probably would not have heard of Dominic Cummings either.

What would have happened if David Milliband was leader of the Labour Party? Would we have ever heard of Jeremy Corbyn?  Or be part of his small revolution, that went onto inspired a new generation. We probably would have been caught up in more global conflicts in the name of peace, as David Milliband followed a lot of neo –liberal agenda.

Covid 19 pandemic would most likely still taken place, as this is a  natural phenomenon. But how would we have dealt with it?  A part of me hopes, I can wake up from this parallel universe and find myself back in a more normal world, where the butterfly didn’t flap his wing. Where I am just getting ready to vote for in the GE in May 2020.

Day Fourteen- Fading Hope?

Two weeks have passed since we began official lockdown. Next Monday we will know how long they will extend it by. I guess, it’s no use in pretending the Government will announce they will ease restrictions, the chances are, we are in it for the next foreseeable month or maybe more.

The Sun came out this weekend, like no other time of this year, it almost felt like June. Clear skies and mild wind greeted us through our windows. Taunting us and reminding us of all the things we cannot do. Today should have been the beginning of Easter Holidays, a ray of hope and excitement for everyone. April has always been my favourite time of the year. Looking back, all my great memories had been forged around this time. The start of spring brings me a joy, like no other seasons, not even summer. It never fails to give me the sense of birth, a new beginning. With the clocks extending, the sun emerging and with each passing hour, the days get longer. It allows me to approach the year with excitement, joy and hope of what I can do for the next coming months. Unlike in July and August, where the scorching heat only reminds me that the days are reaching its peak and everything is slowly grinding down and the days will soon be coming to a halt.

This year it’s hard to think or feel anything, even with it being 21 degrees outside today. The uncertain future and the news around us, hasn’t allowed me to contemplate tomorrow. Instead a feeling of restlessness has clouded me.  The News makes me more confused than anything else, the reason why I have stopped reading or watching them. All my group chats in Whats App is in its peak volume from family to friends. Being in lockdown has us all documenting our thoughts, memes, videos and links we come across every day. There seems to be a trend in all of these new renewed connections. We have the religious ones, the funny ones, the paranoid one and the critical ones.

Running in the City this weekend, it was clear that many have flouted the social distancing rules, using the sun as an excuse to put on their running tights, only to hang out in hot tourist or gathering points. The warning from the Government, doesn’t seem to have an effect on some, as threats of tougher restrictions and taking away our right to exercise, looms over our heads.

As some good news comes out of Italy and Spain with their death counts and infection rates being lower and also here in the UK producing a lower number than yesterday. We are still far from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t even know what plateau feels or looks like in this situation.  Boris Johnson being hospitalised with Covid 19, makes it seem like, this crazy Sci-Fi movie we have found ourselves in, has not even reached its climax. We are still half way through the plot. Whether you like or hate the guy, there is no denying having the leader of the country hospitalised by the same thing that is leading the world down a downwards slope, can have a toll on your faith that it’s going to get better.

I am trying to keep it normal. This week, I set up my Sheesha set in my garden, like I do every time, around this time of the year. I watered my dead mint plant, which within the next two weeks, like every year will no doubt sprout its first leaves. Making the small part of my garden where I smoke my Sheesha, bask with its fragrance. Having Sheehsa at the end of every spring or summer night allows me to think, it gives out a relaxing ambience and lets me unwind.

Today, in the first warm night of the year, when I take my hit at the pipe and watch the coal burn, I think of the picture of me in staring into the sunrise. The one attached to this blog. This was only six months ago when me and my cousins were in New York. This picture was one of my favourite moments of the whole trip. Me and my cousin got up at 6am that morning, in our Air BnB in Brooklyn and ran all the way to the famous Coney Island Beach. There, unbeknown to us and to our surprise, we were greeting by this sunrise and the calm waters rushing into the coastal sands. It was an amazing sight, a permanent sign of hope and a reminder, even in a congested concrete jungle like New York, there laid such peaceful and beautiful scenery. How the world has changed from six months ago. I think about NYC and my family there and the current situation they are going through and how Covid 19 has affected them. But just like the sunrise on that day, I know they will rise from this.

As I sit in my garden and take another hit on my Sheesha. I can clearly see the top of The Shard, the lights turned to blue for the foreseeable future, in honour of the NHS. I am reminded of the great unity this country and the people have for our heroes working there under these circumstances. The lights acting as a signal, a beacon of strength, admiration of resilience and gratitude. The moon shines above me, nature’s permanent light, guiding us and reminding me, man made light may come from human hope, but the universe will never fail in shining it own light of hope. A few stars trickle next to it, maybe one day we will get to see all the magnificent stars shine again across the skies of London, showing us the brilliance and power of the cosmos. The ancient kings and souls that had found themselves long lost in there. Crazier things have happened, crazier things are happening, almost nothing is impossible nowadays. We have used man-made structures to hide the lights that burn in space, we can find ways to undo them. Unless we look up and try to uncover the mysteries and mystical nature of the universe, we can’t find ourselves here in this earth.

So as the second week passes, I still keep hope, I know the sun will rise again, just like my picture.

As The Queen said in her speech

‘Better days will return, families will meet again, friends will meet again, we will meet  again.’

Day Twelve- Why Running Matters

First they came for the pubs, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t drink. Then they came for the Restaurants and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t go out to eat. Then they came for the gyms,  but there was no one left to speak out for me.

It was a good joke and got a few laugh when I cited it around a fortnight ago to friends and family, the day the government announced they are going to close down all the gyms to combat Covid 19. The truth was, for many gym and fitness addict such as myself, it was a bitter pill to swallow. To gym rats, going two straight days without a training session, makes us feel physically deflated.  It’s a mental unlocking, where you feel weak and end up hating looking in the mirror. The indefinite suspension of gyms without a clear date of when it will open, left us worried about our gains, our mental health and that summer body we all prepare to sculpt, like every year.

Very quickly, free weights, resistance bands, dumbbells and literally every other home workout equipment you could think off, started selling out online. Thanks to this new fitness craze that has hit people in the past five years. Many were ahead of the game and knew exactly what to do and order.

I had a few resistance bands at home but that’s a story for another blog. I guess my falling grace in all of this, was the fact that the government allowed us to go outside once a day for exercise. This meant, I could continue with my running, especially with the weather improving. I was a little sad because this year was meant to be the year when I ramp up a few 10K races and at least two half marathons (last year I managed to do one race) but fate had other plans with all large sporting events suspended until further notice.  Having just completed a half marathon in the beginning of March and combining heavy cardio with weights right up until the day of the lockdown, I was all up in rage with my training. I told myself, I couldn’t let this be a reason to slide down with my fitness, especially with my running. My goal remained to run as many long distances races as I can, if not this year, then definitely next.

Now, I know a lot of joggers are getting  bad press in the media, for not adhering to social distancing and for crowding inside parks. Me, personally I have not witnessed this and I am not sure if this is fake news or it’s just not happening at the places where  I go running.

Apart from essential shopping, the only other time I go out, is when I got out for my run every day.  There is nothing more I find liberating and nothing more suited either. As a matter of fact, the title of my website- Pacing Forward, was named in relation to my love for running.  We have been lucky to have had the spring sun shining, as running across the Thames and the City of London with the wind rushing and the sun blaring down on your face, as you pass through each of London’s famous bridges is nothing short of exhilarating. What makes it even enjoyable, is that there are few to no traffic and people to slow down your run, therefore improving your pace. London has always been a difficult place to run, thanks to its deep congestion. Whether it’s a red light, cyclists or just pedestrians getting in your way. The rare occasion when the traffic works in your favour with less people around, is what I call a good day. This is how it is now, every day.

I have never been that fond of running in parks, simply because, most of the time you find yourself in a loop and I much rather move in straight lines.  This is why it seems a blessing to go running every day and keep moving on the streets without any obstacles. Even though, there is a sense of eeriness from the silence of the roads, once packed by thousands of people.  What is also interesting is, the amount of runners I see, that I have not seen before. If this pandemic has done anything, is that it has been successful in getting more people out of their doors to take better care of their health by running, even if their reasons are to just get that one hour break from staying inside their homes.

But the best part of it all is and I cannot express this enough, that it is good for your mental wellbeing. There is a reason why the government has made exercise, one of the mandatory reasons for you to go out.  This is because, it’s vital for your physical and mental health. In this current pandemic with all the concerns, anxiety and worries we have for our loved and vulnerable ones and the future of this world. Being cooped up inside the four walls of our homes, is the last thing we need to add on to the list of worries. The mental effects of being in a lockdown can potentially cause more harm for us as a society as we move on from this globe changing scenario. Think along the lines of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is no doubt in the long run, people coming out of this pandemic will develop some type of anxiety as a result of all this. This is why it’s so important that we keep both our mind and body fit.

Running and social distancing go hand in hand. There is no activity more solitude than running. I should know, I have done it for a long time.  There is nothing more serene than running at your own pace, yes there are some who choose to run with their friends, partners and teams but really and truly, this is one activity where you don’t need anyone. All you need is a good playlist and a good route, and you get subdued into your own world, the only competition you have is yourself. You are in a world where no one will judge you, time you or even ask what you have on your playlist. You can put whatever gets you going, from your guilty pleasures to hardcore fast pacing tunes. I personally have everything from Linking Park, Jay Z to Celine Dion to get me through those slow parts of the runs.  It’s all personal, it’s all you and you don’t need anybody or anyone.

Importantly it helps me balance my thoughts, my worries, allows me to think, helps me escape, clear my mind and puts me in a better mood and makes me fitter all at the same time.  In this lockdown with no clear idea or timeline of what will happen next, we need this now more than ever.

It also allows me to kill two birds with one stone, as I almost always pop down the supermarket after my run to do my shopping. Thankfully, since all my runs are in the City of London, majority of the supermarkets have fewer customers and fully stocked up.

There are a lot of concerns that runners are causing a lot of issues in relation to social distancing, but from what I have witnessed, we are keeping safe. I keep more than my recommended distance, carry my own towel with me, along with wearing the right gear and washing myself thoroughly when I get home.

For that one hour a day I find myself now running, it’s the one hour, where I feel a bit normal, escape from a world that is getting grim every day.  So please let’s all of us keep pacing forward.

As always don’t jeopardise others with your action, be safe doing whatever you do and keep healthy.

Day Ten – Conspiracy Squad

Every global catastrophe is guaranteed to have two things. Number one, its critics and number two the conspiracy theorists. The latter, remind us every step of the way, that what are seeing, is in fact, not what we are getting.

Did you hear about the one where no Jews went to work at the World Trade Centre in 9/11? Or how about the famous, Man didn’t land on the Moon? Do you remember how The Simpsons predicted the future in multiple episodes? How about MMR vaccines causing Autism amongst children? And less we forget the Flat Earthers, a scary growing movement, who in fact believe, as their title will tell you, yes, the world is flat and the globe is just a big NASA conspiracy. For what reason, they are still yet to tell us. But not all conspiracy theories are something concocted out of mind of a toddler, with lizards controlling the Earth and enslaving humanity. There are those you can have a rational conversation about, which are more political rather than conspiracy theories. Such as the destabilising of middle-eastern countries by western forces in the name of liberation and freedom.

So was it really a surprise with the whole Covid 19 Pandemic, that every conspiracy theorist crawled out from their dark holes and invaded the internet with their take on how this is all linked to the Illuminati, Freemasons or the Rothschild Family. I’ll be the first to admit, I do not trust all formal information the government gives us, but that does not mean I will jump on the bandwagon of those who are offering me their wide and wacky alternative. Whilst I can entertain the ideas of experts and professionals who have worked in stock markets, health care systems, government offices and have inside knowledge of the subject they are talking about and giving their opinions of what this current global catastrophe means. What I can and will not tolerate is the average Joe without any actual expertise or knowledge about something, enforcing a theory which they found out about through a meme,  like it was the truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m sure all of us have received videos, voice notes, memes, texts and posts, from all different sources in the last few weeks, citing different theories about Covid 19. Some are quite interesting to think about and others just plain unbelievable. Like the one where millions of bodies are being cremated secretly by the government to hide the death toll. What government in this day and age can secretly cremate a million bodies and keep it silent? A million bodies are likely to have a minimum of 60 million relatives or people they know, what government can keep 60 million people to keep their mouths shut? But what is scary, is the amount of people who then forward these theories, legitimising the absurdness behind it.

Recently, there have been videos and posts about how the 5G network is emitting a new type of powerful radiation which is killing birds and trees. Apparently, 5G will give us brain cancer and is even responsible for Covid 19. I think our 5G contract with China, has something to do with these types of sentiments coming out. What is worrying about the whole thing is, we are seeing videos surfacing of ordinary Joe public approaching Engineers, who are going about their daily jobs, fixing these lines, being verbally attacked and threatened. Comments from people, threatening to burn these posts and places down, after it has been built, like they are some hero vigilantes doing humanitarian work for the greater good.

It comes as no surprise the ones who are instigating these, are the type of people, who are likely to state the University of Life as part of their education on their Facebook account, overcompensating for their self doubt and inadequacies, they feel they have in life. And maybe that’s where the fault lies. Spouting and entertaining conspiracy theories gives the illusion that you are somehow intelligent, because you are not swallowing the tripe being fed to you, because after all you must be smart if you are questioning the government, right? It maybe those dinner or party conversations you have with people, where you feel you come out looking woke and knowledgeable, when most of what you are saying are just filled with contradictions. That’s because majority of the people who normally forward or talk about far fetched conspiracy theories are just presenting verbatim of what they have been told by someone else.  But it also highlights a much wider social problem. The lack of trust people have of officials and also in many cases a huge of lack of education and critical thinking.

In the last few days I have heard and read theories about how people are dropping dead from newly administered Covid 19 vaccines here in the UK and how letters being sent by Boris are doused with mind control chemicals. You have to wonder, who is coming up with this stuff? Is someone writing them as a joke and people passing them on as real? Why cannot people decipher information before believing in it.  Are contradictions that difficult to process, especially in plain sight? When they attack 5G installations, citing it has radiation that causes cancer? Don’t they stop to think that they are walking around with smartphones in their pockets? Internet in their homes? Ipads for their children, microwaves and android devices being used as part of their everyday lives? Do all these products they currently have emit something other than radiation, maybe it gives out some kind of magic rays that 5G doesn’t?

Yes, there are many things that get hidden from us -the public, but if you know where to look or how things work, it doesn’t stay hidden for long. A government cover up or secret doesn’t mean it’s a conspiracy, and most of the time when they cover up something, its strategy or diplomatic secrets. It’s not devil antennas designed to execute and kill or mind control drugs. So please the next time you come across a piece of information at a volatile time like this. Think twice, because people are dying, the public is scared, we have never been in a situation like this before. Your race to prove you are smart and somehow have extra knowledge, only proves the opposite and ends up causing more distress to the public and insensitive to families and victims of this pandemic.

Be safe, Stay Home and if in doubt Don’t Share



Be Safe, Stay Home and if in doubt, DON’T Share.

Day Nine – Has God Abandoned Us?

Back in mid January, when the news of the new Coronavirus started filtering out of China, I remember one evening, waiting to pick up my order at the local fried chicken shop. It was a typical evening, with the kind of rush you expect inside a chicken shop in East London and with same type of customers. Sitting at the table behind me, while I waited for my food was a group consisting of five to six males, between their late 20s and 30s.  They fitted a stereotype, Asian, long beards, shorts hair with big winter coats and talking of religion.  My ears drifted in and out of their conversation, as they did. I heard one of them, talk a bit aloud but then silent, upon realising, his comments had got my attention. “China is being punished by Allah, for their treatment of Uyghurs Muslims“.

I guess it was no surprise that some were making that connection, I was kind of waiting for it.  Plagues, illnesses and natural disasters had always been attributed as an act of God to punish the people, depending on who the victims were and whose perception it was coming from. It seemed if a Muslim land or people had come across calamities, it was a test from God, anywhere else or anybody else, it was a punishment. I’m sure the same applies for all faith and beliefs, when they come to analyse the natural acts of this world.

As the situation started to become worse and the virus became a global pandemic, it didn’t take time to yield out the conspiracy theorist and the zealots. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, viruses and illnesses have long been a companion of religious scriptures, a weapon of choice of God to vent his anger and vengeance to the people of this world.  History and scriptures are filled with stories of locusts and plagues to warn mankind of their deviance. So, as Covid 19 rapidly took course over the globe. As expected, preachers, imams and self graduated scholars came out of the woodwork, almost salivating and drooling with glee as they preached about how this is God’s punishment and signs of the end of times. One could be forgiven to think they took pleasure of mixing and making no distinction between vengeance, wrath and the tormented traits of God and at same time asking for his mercy, as they joyfully warned us of the impeding Armageddon. You can hardly blame them, it does sometimes feel like we are living in Biblical times. How similar does the current situation stand against, stories of God sending plagues and locusts to defeat Pharoah at the time of Moses. Lands and people being destroyed as written in the Quran, even stories away from today’s mainstream religion such as Norse mythology, tells us of the destructive nature of an angry God ready on his heels to spite Man for their transgression and we have indeed transgressed.

Covid 19, had played right into the hands of all the preachers from all religion, who have for years, decades and centuries, warned us of our deviant lifestyle. The signs of end times are now coming to manifest in front of us. What made it eerie and more true, was when Mecca, the most quintessential global icon of a religious holy place, shut its doors for the first time, to its 1.2 billion followers. The Vatican followed and  soon after all the door of mosques, churches, temples and synagogues around the world followed suit. The call for prayers in certain Muslim countries, no longer called for people to come to mosques but rather stay at home. No signs can be so apparent and symbolic in its nature. The places a lot of people needed now more than ever, to find salvation through prayers, hope and faith, no longer available to us. It seemed scary, but all signs pointed that God had abandoned mankind.  Or did he?

As we stay in our homes, isolated, some grieving the loss of their place of worship and feeling a sense of abandonment. You need to ask yourselves, the true meaning of faith. I am not a theologian, I don’t have any interest in indulging in religious theology and beliefs, as they all seem distorted and mindless at the best of times.  Taking an interest and reading about the universe the way I do. For a long time,  it has been clear to me, the answers we search for in faith,  such as the creation, creator, life, fate, destiny and the meaning of our souls, lies out there in the cosmos then it does here on this earth. If anyone takes the time to study the stars, the planets, the galaxies, the sheer size of this universe and its meticulous design, you cannot doubt this is an intelligent design and the answers we are looking for in our existence, is in indeed out there.  Maybe it’s that complicated and meticulous design of the universe, which makes it hard for our minds to comprehend it magnificent nature and we find it easier to focus and hone in all our thoughts, existence and answers into this pale blue dot, we inhabit. We are not the centre of the universe, we are very insignificant, if only we could agree to this.

One cannot disagree that it is painful to see places of worships closed, for many, it is their life. I can understand the pain of those Muslims who planned to perform Umrah or Hajj this year, for not being able to go. We can feel for the devout religious people, for who their rituals and place of pilgrimage is now closed, how lost they must feel. But whether it is Allah, God, Jesus, Yahweh, Krishna, you worship, their divinity had always given a similar message and that is, everything happens for a reason.  Now is the time to think, rather than mourn.

If what is happening in this world now, is a wrath of the Divine, then the world has been under his wrath for as long as its existence.   Deaths, plagues, wars, famine, has been around since day one, yes its true, it has taken much sinister form throughout the centuries, but that has been due to human engineering.  In the last decade, Wars- a purely man made creation created to feed the banks and lust of man,  has killed more than Covid 19 ever will. TB another virus, kills approximately 1.6 million people a year. The statistics of Cancer, HIV and other diseases have affected or killed more or less in the same level as Covid 19. These stats are not to take away and dilute the real and imminent danger of Covid 19, but a reality check to people, to make them see that we as a globe are always dying from diseases and this is not something new or killing at a rate that we are not used to. This is not a weapon from the Benevolent to show his wrath and the doors of Apocalypse opening up, with the messiah floating down from the sky anytime soon.  If that was the case? Then as far as history and humanity has been around, we have always been at the end of his smite.

For many of you, it should be a time of deep contemplation. Time to shed the armours that you thought had built your faith. What are mosques and churches, but brick and mortars?  For years I have witnessed people going in through the doors of places of worship, exiting through the rear door and resuming their lives as normal, no evidence of the impact of their visits. Beautiful architecture and materials have been used globally to design building to play homage to their God/s, for the world to see their psychical beauty, representing their purity, yet the purity of the people who attend there had very little to show.  Many started operating as business overlooking the true purpose behind it, even the most holiest of sites such as Mecca had erected massive clock towers over their sacred buildings, to feed into the capitalist greed and ideas of people, of what it means to visit there. Grand constructions have led the average person, to folk out quarter to half of their income for a visit. Only to mark it with selfies and souvenirs rendering it a tourist place rather than the spiritual pilgrimage it is intended to be. Whilst many dream and wait for a chance to visit, but can’t afford to. Across all religion the relationship with God has become superficial.  Being seen to say the right things and attending the right places has taken away the real questions you should be asking yourselves about your existence here in this universe.  In this state of isolation, ask yourselves, what builds your faith, is it the clothes, the buildings, the tourist  pilgrimage, the forwarding of faith inspired memes and texts that even you don’t read or is that belief in your heart that the divine is everywhere inside you. There is no abandonment and there is not wrath or punishment, there is only he and there is only life. With the closes of places of worship, it times to build them inside you. You can get lost looking for God in a mosque or a church but find him in the back alley of a club.  Sometimes giving you a million pounds can be his curse but giving you an illness can be a blessing. If it means, you will learn your place in this universe.

After the death of Prophet Muhammed, his best friend Abu Bakar, got up to the grieving people and told them

“For those who worshiped Muhammed, let them know Muhammed is dead.  But for those of us who worship Allah, for he lives in us and can never die.”

 And that is truer words, if any.





Day Seven – Birthday Contemplation

For many, having a birthday in quarantine is not the way they wanted to mark their special day. No cakes, no presents, no fun fare or a nice meal or party with friends and family. To me, I finally had an excuse to spend my birthday the way I spent the last 37 of them. Not that I am against birthdays, far from it, but a lot of factors come into play.  The first factor being, me being from a generation of UK Bangladeshis, that grew up at a time when much emphasis wasn’t put on life events such as birthdays.  Not many of my Bangladeshi peers can say our parents remembered, let alone made a big deal about our birthdays. Like many, I grew up in confusion watching non Bengalis putting on their party hats and going all out with cakes and balloons. We relied on Hollywood and TV programmes to give us a projection into what a birthday party should look and feel like. Every now and then, we would get invited to that one cousin’s house, whose parents had decided to throw them a party. We will be excited with our best clothes on, whilst listening to parent of the cousin, explaining how their kid forced them to throw it.  Pilau and curry would be the main dish of the day and every cake seemed to have balloons printed on it.  Apart from the cultural upbringing which shaped my views on birthdays, personally, I’ve never seen a reason to measure myself against the time of the year when you were born, if anything, I feel it’s quite dangerous.  The last thing we need more in our lives, is an invisible date to aim all our goals towards and put benchmarks of what we should be achieving.  There are far too much societal expectations in relation to age,  all geared towards our birthdays. The age where one, should be getting married, have kids, have a career, buy a house, go travelling, and make money, the list is endless. I am a firm believer that growth comes through experience and there is never a right or wrong time to do anything, there is only one timeline you should follow and that is your own.  It’s quite simple to see when looking around, that none of us age the same way. If the day you were born had any real significant part to play in our time here in this earth, then everyone born on the same day, will age the same and die the same day as well. We are on different timelines with different goals and different growth.

Being two years shy of 40, many who reach my age start preparing their milestone birthday. However, turning 38 is reaching a significant milestone for me.  For a long time it has been a benchmark, not to reach a goal but something quite different. I’ll never know the exact age of my dad, people from his generation came to this country under their assumed date of births, rather than their actual ones. People living in villages in a country like Bangladesh at that time, very rarely kept birth records. But I calculated (quite accurately) it was when he was 38 that his life changed.

I still remember that summer of 1990. My older brother and I, were roughly the same age as my daughter and my son, with similar age gaps. It was the year he had his first heart attack and later his triple heart bypass. Flashbacks of him being rushed to hospital in an ambulance and laying there for months upon months was just the start of his journey to become weakened physical shell.

My Dad never had the best of dietary habits or the best of lifestyle, which was obvious in what part it played for what happened to him. But to me it served as a rude awakening, as the years went on and losing  uncles from coronary heart issues, it was quite clear that heart problems run through my DNA and  maybe I am destined for the same fate at an early age. This is one of the main reasons behind my constant dedication to fitness.  Even in my twenties, I envisioned where I would be in terms of my health when I reach this stage in my life. Thankfully, overall being in your late 30’s is different now than it was 20 years ago.  When I was a kid, reaching 30s, especially in an Asian household, meant men with bald patches and pot bellies already retiring themselves to old age, women were not much better.  It’s different now, people look and approach life differently across all cultures and lifestyles. In popular culture, it’s hard to distinguish age now then it was decades ago, Brad Pitt, in his 50’s still looks like his prime and getting casted in Blockbusters. Maddona in her 60s is still dancing in concerts.

I was only eight when my Dad had his heart attack. I remember snippets of my childhood, arguing in our council estate, with other children and boasting how my Dad could punch the building and make it crack, because that’s how strong he was. To every little boy, their dad was Superman.  After his illness, that was taken away from me.   I didn’t forge memories of playing football, cycling or wrestling with him, or something as simple as running in the park with him. We were taught to always be mindful of his physical health.

So, approaching this age, for a long time, the thought where I would be physically was always lingering. Today, I do not look or resemble anything like my dad did back when he was my age. As I play with my nearly 7 year old son and he compares my strength to Thor from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and genuinely entertains the idea of who would win a fight between me and Thor or if my muscles are bigger than Thor’s, my favourite character. I am reminded of the little boy I was, who thought his Dad could punch through the walls of concrete buildings.

Life and death is a delicate balance and tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live a quality life for however long you are meant to be in your place in this universe, by looking after you health. Today in this state of quarantine, more than anything, I feel blessed for my health. I take pride in looking after my fitness.  I am firm believer that good mental health goes hand in hand with good physical health.

 Have I achieved everything I want in life? Definitely not, there is more hunger and mileage inside me to go out and experience more of this world, than at any point in my life before, but that’s a drive that will always stay with me.   I have faith in the Universe that everyone is where they have to be and in time things you are meant to achieve and experience, will happen. As long as you love the one thing you have control over, your health and your mind.

As we live in times of unprecedented quarantine, now is the best time as any, to be reminded by the world around us. How having your health is the biggest asset and life’s biggest blessing.  I am reminded that a birthday doesn’t change anything immediately, I am the same man I was yesterday, today and tomorrow, turning a number won’t change any of that. Growth comes from experience.  As Muhammed Ali once said

“The man who sees life in his 40’s, the same way he does in his 20’s, has lost 20 years of his life.”

Be safe, stay healthy.

Day Five – End of Week One

For me like most, here in the UK, Friday was the end of the most surreal week of our history, week one of lockdown is officially over, with no clear answer of when it will all be lifted. Our freedom taken away from us, so suddenly, by an invisible enemy. It seems like a fantasy to even dream of a life post pandemic as we experience rose tinted nostalgia of how life was just a month ago. A world where human contact such as a handshake, hug or peck on the cheek was normal as breathing.  Where we didn’t have to  queue up for a mile, standing two metres away from one another outside the supermarkets.  A life, where getting a cappuccino didn’t require you trekking from one street to another, looking for an open place.  Ignoring a few hiccups along the way we have adapted to a situation, we could not have conjured in our minds a month ago, proving once again, what we as the human spirit, can achieve.  Even as we lay on the edge of the unknown, not knowing how long this will last, we can be sure of one thing, this country will not be the same again.

So what happened in week one? Apart from trying my best to relocate my work desk to the comfort of my cheap sofa, experiencing this new app called Zoom for the first time and engaging in a virtual work meeting to prove to everyone I am indeed, working. I found myself negotiating with my nine year old daughter on why she should use the IMac, because her school work was far too important, leaving me with our slacking laptop. Which, I had to refresh every five minute to show my status to my workplace. My six year old son had the right idea, he did his work on paper and then started watching Marvel movies, on Disney Plus, which is the saviour to our solitude at the moment. Something miraculous happened- The sun came out in the UK, shining in all its glory for the whole week- a rare thing in March indeed. A part of me wondered if this was nature’s way of thanking or merely taunting us?

Being at home, there are a lot of things I miss. Mostly, I miss going to the gym and keeping fit. Working out religiously since a young teenager, it is a big fall from grace for those who regularly exercise. Thankfully, having knowledge and experience of HIIT and being a runner, it easy to adapt to the one hour exercise period, (advised by the government) without the help of the long locked Joe Wickes.

Each day as usual, I found myself venturing out of Tower Hamlets and running towards the city of London with the sun blazing down. Through the eerie empty roads, resembling ghost cities, which you might see on an episode of Walking Dead with no signs of their usual vehicles or people.  It seemed like everyone had taken up jogging, as a runner, it is easy to pick out who the runners were and who just took it up just this week. Perhaps this lockdown is a good thing, for people to exercise. But what was quiet clear with the blue skies without a cloud or aeroplane in sight, was how beautiful London really is. As I ran pass the quintessential landmarks of Tower and London Bridge across the soothing waters of the Thames. St Pauls Cathedral, The Shard, Westminster and the Millennium Wheel all stood in the background, just standing there majestically.  It seemed the true beauty of London was manifesting in front of my eyes.  A feeling of serenity and calm overtook me each time – a rare feeling, if any, to come to anyone, right in the heart of UKs and arguably one of the world’s capitals.  Living in London, we never get to experience solitude the way people might experience elsewhere, so it was a welcome change.

As the water of Thames flowed against the background of my runs and the concrete jungles of empty offices passed my view. I saw shops like pharmacies which were open but had signs informing everyone when they were closed for lunch. It’s a feeling close to surreal, right here in the heart of London, a city that didn’t close for anyone or any time of the day, workers were shutting their steel shutters, to enjoy their basic rights of lunch.  Small gentrified pop up kiosks that stood next to City Hall selling £10 burgers and £4 small chips, had all gone, leaving the space for people to jog and walk, like it was meant to be. It seems London, the most metropolitan city in the world, had become a small village with quiet roads and open space. Local shops which have suffered so much over the years, thanks to big supermarkets opening up every corner, are now flourishing, as people choose to avoid the long queues of the big chains. People exercising more, even if it is an excuse to just get out of the house, the only thing missing is children’s laughter.

As week one ends, I take away the positive, being at home, gives us time to rest, re-evaluate our life goals and priorities. It has allowed me to write more, re-arrange my thoughts, but at the same time I am constantly reminded of the grimness of the situation. Elderly parents of two people I know, passed away, their families not being able to say goodbye to them or even retrieve their bodies. The precaution needed to guard the sick and the dead, bring out the horror of the world we are currently in.  Numbers are rising and people are dying, it makes you wonder how long you can keep optimism and hope and look at the bright side of this lockdown. What happens if these restrictions are not eased up within three weeks as it was promised? Will our social order breakdown? What happens if more than the expected people die? But hope and optimism still remains high, it will get worse, the numbers will increase for that there is no doubt. But what is inevitable. is exactly that, all we can do is stay home as much as possible to reduce the risk.

There is no doubt, we are going to come out better out of this, within a week, through the help of technology we are reaching out to the ones we love and forging those missed connections.  We have learned to appreciate what we have and let go of the things which brought us mundane feelings that we classed as important.  Even from the locked doors of our homes, we managed to come together as country and in unison, showing our appreciation for our NHS heroes on Thursday. It showed our resourcefulness, our willingness, our innovativeness and most of all our kindness. The traits we will need, as we move onto next week and the weeks hereafter to build the new world after this.

I am reminded all throughout, from line from The Dark Knight

‘The night is always darkest, before dawn.’