Breakthrough: Memoir of a British-Trained Bangladeshi – Book Launch

Suhail Aziz, the author of Breakthrough: Memoir of a British-Trained Bangladeshi launched his book at the Royal Air Force Club, Mayfair, London on the 4th of September.                

Here, he shares his speech from the day:

“I am very pleased to see you all here this afternoon. I extend a very warm welcome to all of you: my family members, my friends who I have known for many years; friends I made since my wife passed away: the bereavement group from St Christopher’s Hospice, the Croydon u3a – University of the Third Age. I am sorry that some important friends who encouraged me to write this book could not come today, some not being well or for personal reasons. Of course, they are all missed.

Now, why did I write my memoir? How did it all come about? The short answer is I believed I had a story to tell. But I did not feel confident enough to put it all on paper. I wondered who my audience will be. Who would read my book? I decided to speak to some of my relatives, friends, and colleagues. I would talk to them, sometimes here at this Club over lunch or tea or a drink. I would talk about myself, my experience, and so on. After hearing me out, quite a few of them would say: ‘Suhail, you should write a book, you have so much to say’. These provided me with encouragement and inspiration. But there was some discouragement as well. ‘Why did I want to write a memoir and put it all in the public domain?’ It was quite worrying especially the concern for causing people offence, people taking objection. I wanted to write my memoir, digging into my past, what I remembered, but not to invite argument or jealousy. Obviously, my friends and my publishers did the checking of my manuscript. But the important point was that the process of editing and checking did not lose the ‘message’ of my book. I wanted to tell my story. When you have read my book, you will see what I mean.

I am not a writer; I could not write continuously. Writing off and on, it took me some four years from 2016 to 2019. I could not apply myself to writing regularly or to any routine. My wife became ill in the summer of 2012, sadly I lost her in 2014 to the dreaded disease. Then a period of bereavement, sadness, and loneliness meant that I was confused; I could not think about writing. After Anna passed away, I asked myself ‘what now’? I knew that I had some unfinished business – writing my story came first. There had to be some planning. I consulted some people; I attended one or two short courses to get some ideas about writing a memoir. I recall reading a book by an American writer, called Memoir Writing for Dummies. It gave me a powerful tip: ‘Keep writing, editing and all come after’. So, I just kept writing! My first draft manuscript was twice or more the length of this book! There had to be some ruthless editing.

I never thought that I had it in me – the ability or skills to write a book. I did not always want to do it. But as I began to write, I felt inspiration, a feeling of enthusiasm about wanting to tell my story, wanting to share my past and feelings, a feeling that what I wanted to say might be useful to others. I felt some determination, that having started on writing it, I must complete the task. The result is in front of you this afternoon – some 320 pages including photographic plates, 13 chapters narrating my journey from my early years, to coming to the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Devon, and meeting Anna; my career, experience, and impressions – I offer some insights too! For all I wrote I of course bear full responsibility; for my errors and omissions; and for any offence caused I am truly sorry.

People have asked me if I have a plan to write another book? Those who have reviewed my work have told me the content of my memoir has enough threads in it for one or two more books. So, who knows! If I could gather some energy and motivation, I might venture again!

I must thank my u3a colleague and friend, former editor of u3a Croydon magazine, Gordon Thynne and his daughter Catharine, who both are here, for their substantial help in the editing and improving of the manuscript. I thank my daughter Lisa Aziz in giving me her crispy comments and ideas from her journalistic background. And my thanks to my publishers, the Book Guild, for their patient advice and technical assistance along the way.

My thanks also go to the distinguished editors of various magazines, especially the editor, of the ‘Third World Matters (TAM)’ magazine, Joanne Smith, and several Bengali newspapers in London who have reviewed my book with empathy and understanding, I am most grateful to the many friends who have given me introductions to the reviewers of my book.

I hope you will enjoy reading my memoir. Do please give any comments or suggestions you might have after reading it. These will help in case there is another print run.

Now it is time for the ‘Traditional Afternoon Tea’ and for me to sign your copy of the book.

Thank you all for listening to me.”


Breakthrough: Memoir of a British-Trained Bangladeshi is Suhail’s story through love and prejudice; how he made it in England starting at the bottom and rising to the chairmanship of public bodies, gaining recognition along the way for his distinguished record of public service. Suhail Aziz’s memoir is his life’s experience, impressions and insights.

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