A book details a man’s journey from south east London to Melbourne – telling of the ‘suspense-ridden’ borders he crossed along the way.
Mohammad Chowdhury, 54, grew up in Grove Park and then lived in Blackheath, Beckham and Chrislehurst.
He later moved to Washington D.C., returned to south east London, moved to central London, to Johannesburg, back to London, then to Cario, Mumbai and Jakarta until he finally settled in Melbourne.
His newly published book, Border Crossings: My Journey as a Western Muslim, tells the story of his ‘crossing endless physical as well as cultural borders’ throughout his life.
Mr Chowdhury said he grew up feeling like an outsider in south east London, and also in his family community in Bangladesh which is why he went on his travels.
The dad-of-two said: “The book is about how I resisted the temptation of choosing sides and instead decided to carve out of a way of connecting to people across these borders.
“It’s about the pain that choice caused, as well as the privilege it creates.
“Post 9/11 many people went as far to observe that faithful Muslims cannot be fully paid-up members of a Western society and I wanted to counter that dangerous narrative.
“The book has come out at around the 20 year anniversary of 9/11 so it is a timely opportunity to remind us of the importance of building trust across cultures and celebrating how united our society can be.”
He said it is life that has taken him to these different places, and that it is an opportunity to travel combined with ambition that can make a difference to the world we live in.
Mr Chowdhury added that the streets of south east London still navigate his routes – and while he might miss London’s buzz, it’s Melbourne’s friendly localities and warmer climate that keeps him there.
He said: “Wherever I’ve lived in the world, I’ve always tried to adopt a local mindset, but places are different, and this is what makes our world such a rich and varied place.
“I love the friendly nature of Melbourne’s localities and the climate is never too cold, but I miss London’s buzz, its relevance to all things global and its amazing bookshops and shopping.”
It is Border Crossing’s story relatability and reading ease that makes it stand out from other books, according to Mr Chowdhury.
He added: “It’s relatable to anyone who has crossed borders in their life, regardless of their background, faith or gender and telling my story is an attempt to relate it to yours.
“It’s written in an easy style and it doesn’t want to behave like an intellectual book, though it attempts to deal with some complex things such as why we had to touch elders’ feet as a sign of respect or why some Muslims think dressing like an Arab makes them more Islamic.
“The book packs in a range of hair-raising actual border crossings, spy-like moments, scary interrogations and suspenseful incidents that few would have experienced, but which have become a part of my life.”
Mr Chowdhury returns to London to visit at least once a year – but has had to miss the past two trips due to coronavirus.
He is currently working as a partner at PwC Australia, and says publishing this book alongside his work has been an ‘emotional end to a long journey’.
He added: “Initially when we approached publishers over ten years ago, the usual question was whether I was ex Al Qaeda and when the answer was no, the interest dropped.
“But the book has come at a relevant time and I’m happy I didn’t give up.
“It’s been an emotional end to a long journey.”
Mr Chowdhury was a student at Riverston School in Sidcup Road, and then studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford.
He completed a Master’s Degree at Cambridge and then did executive training with Harvard Business School.
His book is available to buy in various bookstores and online now, including at Waterstones and on Amazon.
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