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Dr. Tanveer Ahmed appears in shanghai international literary festival

This Bangladeshi-Australian has had a wonderfully strange career. A practicing psychiatrist, Ahmed transitioned into journalism as a noted expert on multiculturalism and mental health issues. In the spotlight, Ahmed indulged his comedic itch, refereeing a prime-time game show. Perfect preparation for a life of politics as he was elected as a Liberal Party councilor in 2012. Somehow, he found time to write the acclaimed migration memoir, The Exotic Rissole. He will discuss the book and how migration forces us to choose pieces of our identity.

// Mar 9, 12pm, RMB75. Crystal Room.

Is The Exotic Rissole very faithful to your life, or have you changed some parts for dramatic purposes?

The book is essentially a memoir from events in my life. Like all such memoirs, there are descriptive and scenic elements that are added on occasions, but the events are true to history, at least to my memory of them.

Would you ever consider moving back to Bangladesh?

It would be difficult to move back to Bangladesh with a young family and wife not derived from there. It remains one of the poorest and most difficult places to live in the world. In contrast Australia is one of the wealthiest and liveable places in the world. However, I retain a strong connection with my relatives in Bangladesh and have a strong desire to contribute in whatever ways I can from afar. For example, I contribute to the Bangladeshi media while living in Australia. I am also eager for my daughters to have an understanding and experience of their ancestry.

Wikipedia lists you as a comedian, journalist, television personality and a doctor working as a psychiatrist, in that order. Does it match the way you would define yourself?

No, not at all. That Wikipedia entry is from several years ago after I’d done a prime time gameshow on television. I stopped performing comedy years ago. In terms of my career identity, I am very much a psychiatrist first. That is what I spend the majority of my working life doing. I also consider myself an author and writer, but even there I concentrate my writing often on matters overlapping with mental health. I’d consider myself a broad thinking psychiatrist.

For our readers, could you briefly summarize how migration forces a person to choose pieces of his identity?

In modern life, particularly for those either living or derived from the West, there is an enormous freedom to choose how to define yourself. The last few decades have seen a tremendous upheaval in the traditions of clan and culture. This can be freeing, but also disabling for some people faced with what can feel life a lack of structure. People can now channel their identity by picking and choosing pieces and aspects of the traditions, beliefs and practices available to them, almost like a buffet. They do so according to how they would like to express their unique individual identity. For example, my neighbour considers himself to be a Christian, Buddhist, tax accountant.

(first appeared in That’s Shanghai)

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a Sydney based psychiatrist and author. His parents are from Jessore, Bangladesh. He was born in Dhaka and migrated to Australia aged six. His memoir of migration is called “The Exotic Rissole”. He is also an elected local politician and is involved in the media.