While leaving my home country was difficult, I was driven by the belief that I could continue making a difference and fighting for the rights of others, even from afar. 

Photo: © William


While leaving my home country was difficult, I was driven by the belief that I could continue making a difference and fighting for the rights of others, even from afar. 

Photo: © William

William, an author and journalist from Bangladesh, reflects on his journey from Bangladesh, finding a new home in the UK and shares his tea rituals for Cuppa Hope.  

My name is William and I’m a British-Bangladeshi based in the UK.

As someone from a refugee background, I’m a passionate campaigner and advocate for the rights of displaced people.

I sought refuge in the UK in 2012 and have since made it my home.

I’m an author, freelance journalist, human rights defender, poet and researcher. Beyond my professional roles, I am a father, brother, husband, friend and, most importantly, a tea lover.

I was forced to leave Bangladesh because of my human rights work and journalism. With the help of different international organisations that support journalists and human rights defenders, I was temporarily relocated first to Nepal, then to Hong Kong, before finally settling in the UK through a visiting fellowship.

Throughout my journey, I experienced a mix of fear, uncertainty and hope. While leaving my home country was difficult, I was driven by the belief that I could continue making a difference and fighting for the rights of others, even from afar.

After arriving in the UK, it became clear that it was not safe for me to return to Bangladesh. I made the difficult decision to seek asylum and was granted refugee status. Later, I gradually became a British citizen.

Life in the UK as an asylum-seeker was incredibly difficult. Seeking asylum was a process filled with anxieties and fear about what would happen, coupled with the hope for safety and security. At that time, there was very little support available.

When I was granted asylum, being a refugee meant starting a new life in safety, but I was faced with new challenges. Bringing my family to the UK through the family reunion process was difficult and expensive, but finally, my wife and children were able to join me.

What I like most about my life in the UK is celebrating the kind individuals and organisations who have helped me and my family throughout my refugee journey. Some of them have become lifelong friends, and we have shared many important occasions, laughter, sadness, joy and struggles.

However, I find the increasingly hostile environment created against refugees and asylum-seekers heartbreaking; it brings me to tears. Despite this, I refuse to give up hope, and I continue to campaign for change.

“One of the most challenging aspects of my life in the UK is the profound sense of missing my home and friends in Bangladesh.”

It’s been more than a decade since I left, and I deeply miss the simple pleasure of sharing a good cup of tea with my family and friends, the laughter, the sense of belonging, and the joy that a cup of tea brings.

I like to add fresh ginger and cardamom to my tea. Using fresh ginger and whole green cardamom enhances the natural flavours and aromas of the tea. Grating or finely chopping the ginger helps release its essential oils and spicy notes, while lightly crushing the whole cardamom pod allows its fragrant seeds to infuse the tea with a delightful aroma and flavour. This recipe creates a comforting and invigorating cup of ginger tea that’s perfect for any time of the day.

In Bangladesh, tea rituals are not just about the drink itself; they’re an integral part of the social fabric, weaving together the threads of community, friendship and family. Picture a gathering of friends or neighbours, huddled around a steaming pot of tea, their laughter and chatter filling the air. It’s in these moments that tea becomes a conduit for shared stories, hopes and dreams.

Over a cup of tea, people in Bangladesh pour out their joys and sorrows, seeking comfort and connection in the company of others. It’s a time for listening, for offering advice and for strengthening the bonds that hold communities together.

“Strangers can become friends over a shared cup, the tea acting as a bridge that spans differences and fosters understanding.”

In these tea rituals, there’s a sense of belonging, a feeling of being part of something greater than oneself. Families come together; their ties reinforced by the simple act of sharing a cup. Friends argue and disagree, but the tea keeps them connected, a reminder of the love and respect that underpins their relationships.

But it’s not just about the emotional connections. Tea rituals in Bangladesh are also a time for planning and strategising, discussing politics and envisioning a better future. The tea fuels the conversations, the ideas and the dreams that shape the community.

In contrast, my experience of tea rituals in the UK has been different. While tea is still a beloved beverage, I haven’t yet found the same sense of community and connection that I associate with tea in Bangladesh. The rituals here seem more individualistic, less focused on the shared experience and more on the act of drinking itself.

I miss the laughter, the stories, and the sense of belonging that I found in the tea rituals of my homeland. But I hold onto the hope that, even in the UK, I might one day find a tea ritual that brings people together in the same way, creating a new horizon for hope and connection.

“Maintaining my Bengali identity is incredibly important to me.”

While the way I prepare and enjoy my tea is certainly one way I stay connected to my roots, there are many other ways in which I strive to keep my Bengali heritage alive and vibrant in my daily life.

One of the most significant ways I maintain my Bengali identity is through language. Speaking Bengali at home with my family and reading Bengali literature helps me to stay fluent in my mother tongue and keeps me connected to the rich linguistic traditions of my culture.

Food is another key aspect of my Bengali identity that I cherish. When I cook for friends and family, I feel a sense of pride in introducing them to the delicious and diverse cuisine of Bangladesh.

I also stay connected to my Bengali roots through listening to Bengali music – whether it’s traditional folk songs or contemporary artists, evokes a deep sense of nostalgia and connection to my homeland.

Sharing my Bengali heritage with my children is perhaps the most important way I maintain my identity. By teaching them the language, the customs and the values of our culture, I ensure that our Bengali identity will be carried forward into future generations, even as we make our lives here in the UK.

In all these ways, I strive to maintain a strong and vibrant Bengali identity, one that is interwoven with my British identity and enriches my life in countless ways. By staying connected to my roots, I feel a sense of wholeness and belonging, no matter where in the world I may be.

To learn more about our Cuppa Hope Tea & Talks and to hear William’s story in-person, please visit Cuppa Hope website

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