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The subject ENGLISH isn't just about Spelling and Grammar
it's about LIFE.
60 Years of Life Lessons (not found in textbooks).
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No deserts this time, I expect  – just the green and pleasant fields of Britain.

… Imran … examines who he really is in a series of compelling stories that, taken together, demonstrate how it is possible to change attitudes and beliefs even when one is adult. It leaves one with a feeling of Hope for humanity, so needed in the dark times we are living through.’ 

Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE

Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute

UN Messenger of Peace

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‘Imran Ahmad’s book, The Perfect Gentleman, is a very enjoyable and pertinent book for Year 9 and above.  Many reviews talk about its “readability” – this is absolutely spot-on.  The steady evolution of the narrative voice as the first-person protagonist gets older ensures its accessibility to a range of ages and experiences.  The immersion into the details and texture of life at each age/year is vivid and extraordinary. 

Imran’s ‘narrative performance’ on stage is absolutely riveting and delivered with raw passion and energy.  From giving the students a jaw-dropping insight into late 20th Century Britain – encyclopedias, UHF televisions, endemic discrimination, Orientalism in the Narnia stories, women’s rights (or lack thereof) – to his pursuit of Belonging (“being British”) by adopting a 'James Bond' persona in his worldwide travels … and how this all changed after 9/11.

Imran weaves a narrative tapestry of his life and his challenging publishing journey, and from this he extracts brilliant life lessons which are absolutely pertinent to the student audience (and the teachers!).  As he says: “I wish that someone had told me these things when I was your age.”

The entire package of Book + Narrative Performance + Discussions has a sharp relevance far beyond Year 9 English – encompassing Religious Studies (very broadly), Sociology, Modern History, Citizenship, PSHE and so on – and being of interest all the way up through sixth form and teachers too! 

Going forward, what I think will work best for us is one full hour of the high-energy narrative performance in the morning for the widest audience, followed by smaller group discussion sessions/workshops for the rest of the day.  I hope that Imran will be able to make an annual visit to our school.’

Gemma Price​​​​ – Head of English & Media
The Thetford Academy, Thetford, Norfolk

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'Imran's visit was truly inspirational for our students. Firstly, he talked to our whole Year 9 cohort about his book, The Perfect Gentleman, and his journey to becoming a published author which was an enlightening and engaging experience.  Imran captivated the students with his candid storytelling, offering a unique glimpse into his personal experiences and the challenges he had faced.  His approachable demeanour and genuine passion for writing inspired many students to consider their own creative pursuits.  Imran followed this with several small workshop sessions which were particularly well-received, allowing students to delve deeper into his writing process and the themes of his book.  Imran's visit was a resounding success, leaving a lasting impact on our students and encouraging a greater appreciation for literature and the art of storytelling.'

Student quotes:

What was your favourite part of the author's presentation, and why?
•    Hearing his life stories
•    When he didn’t care that he got bullied at school and told us to not let anyone get to us
•    His stories
•    His education shows unfairness and how he grew stronger from it.
•    His culture
•    When he talked about the difficulties during 2008 [Global Financial Crisis – job losses], as it’s something I’ve never realised about the past and how it truly affected people
•    When he read the book aloud
•    The part where he never gave up
•    When he talked about arranged marriage 
•    How he had a lot of similarities with us and how he explained certain aspects of the story really well

What was the most valuable thing you learned today?
•    To never assume anything 
•    To never give up
•    If you have good intentions, magic happens
•    Don’t assume things about people 
•    Always be yourself!  Don’t let anyone change you!
•    Always have fun, even when you grow older
•    To not make assumptions about people
•    How you shouldn’t quit when you're put down
•    You should never judge a person just by what you think of a person
•    Follow your dreams

Michelle Birbeck  English Teacher

Pleckgate High School, Blackburn, Lancashire

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My presentation is usually a very lively, passionate ‘narrative performance’ (interactive workshop for school audiences) – combining: reading of passages from the book; insights into the extraordinary social evolution of the United Kingdom in the late 20th Century; anecdotes and life lessons from the amazing publishing journey; and self-deprecating humour.  

Year 9 and above, and teachers as well they all find this fascinating, entertaining, riveting.  

This is not relevant solely for Year 9 English.  The story narrated/performed is absolutely pertinent to English, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Sociology,  PSHE, Modern History, Citizenship,  all Humanities in general – and the target audience is from Year 9 to sixth-form to adult (including the teachers, who look just as riveted as the students).  The story includes life's decisions about higher education and career etc.  

Generally, in my presentations, I do not discuss: Religion or specific religions, God or specific gods, current world conflicts, politics, etc.  My focus is on: emotional intelligence; our common humanity (there is no 'Other'); some positive 'Rules for Life'

 

The book is quoted to demonstrate the extraordinary evolution of British society over the last 50-60 years.  This is a lively narrative performance, with age-appropriate humour. 

NOTES FOR UK SCHOOLS

Life Lessons

Despite the subtitle of the book, for school audiences I steer clear of talking about: Religion or specific religions, God or specific gods, politics, current world conflicts, etc.  

 

My focus is on: emotional intelligence; our common humanity; some positive 'Rules for Life'.  The book is quoted to demonstrate the extraordinary evolution of British society over the last 50-60 years.  I also talk about my publishing journey, the lessons I learned and am still learning.  This is a very lively narrative performance, with age-appropriate humour.  

  Unity, Diversity, Equality: there is no 'Other'.  Our common humanity is greater than all of our perceived or imagined differences.  It is a mistake to base our personal identity on not being one of them.  

  Don’t make assumptions about anyone if you don’t know them or haven’t met them in person.

  Anything which happens to you, or which anyone does to you – don’t take it personally.  If you can avoid taking things personally, it can significantly improve your entire life.  This is very, very difficult – but if you can put it into practice, you can sail through life a much happier person.  If the school is a Church school (of whatever denomination), I will extend this (by several orders of magnitude) to mention: 'Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do' ... as the most powerful version of this attitude.  But only if appropriate for the school.  

  Always do your best.  Whatever you are doing, whatever the task in hand (even if it’s a chore like washing up or sweeping leaves), give it your best effort and your full attention.  The Buddhists call this ‘mindfulness’ (oops ... I mentioned a religion, but only in passing).  Doing your best at everything you do can have wonderful outcomes in your life which you can’t imagine. 

Visualise your Dream ... but you must take the first steps and do the necessary work

 

Disappointments line the route to success

Don’t be afraid to try something new … something outside your experience and comfort zone.

 When your intentions are pure ... MAGIC happens … illustrated with amazing real life examples.

 'This, too, shall pass' … change is inevitable ... the dark night of the soul ... it cannot last for ever ... there are always possibilities ... 'Life can turn on a dime' ... all illustrated with astonishing real life examples.

Some of these lessons (but not the real-life examples) are derived from The Four Agreements, an inspiring book by Don Miguel Ruiz – this is acknowledged during the narrative performance. 

I talk about my personal ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ – in which both my corporate career and my writing career were at rock bottom – but change and transformation came from a most unexpected direction (does not involve drugs or religion – this is a secular and ‘clean’ talk).  I had to be willing to step out of my old established patterns and try something new which came my way.  

Book:

The Perfect Gentleman – a Muslim boy meets the West  by  Imran Ahmad 

(Originally published in the UK/Australia as Unimagined  but renamed when my American publisher took global rights.)

I quote from my book and also talk about my extraordinary experiences (and lessons learned) from the amazing publishing journey.  The book narrates in poignant and immersive detail the evolution of Britain and the extraordinary social changes which have taken place over the last 50-60 years.  Today's young people are incredulous about how life used to be – but the narrative timeframe is less than one lifetime! 

With all the current preoccupation with colonial wrongdoing and historical injustices, my opinion is that no one alive today is responsible for what their ancestors may (or may not) have done to my ancestors (and vice versa).  Instead, let us focus on where we are today – we must strive for: social justice, equality of rights and opportunities for all, unity, humanity, compassion, respect, integrity ... and, by the way, our precious Earth (the only home we have) is seriously unwell and we must together do everything we humanly can to help her to heal (for all our sakes).  

I am happy to inscribe and sign books after each event, but I do not carry any copies for sale – therefore, I would appreciate it if pupils are advised of the website (www.unimagined.org) in good time before the event, to source their own copies.  The book is orderable from all local independent bookshops (as well as the usual corporates), and independent bookshops are being given a discount which allows them to be competitive with Amazon.  Your school could also negotiate a favourably discounted bulk order from a local independent bookshop. 

Technology

I do have very interesting visuals, to illustrate the narrative, so a screen/projector is required.  (I have the visuals on a USB memory stick, so if I can use your computer, that is preferable.)

The Evolution of British Society in the Last 50-60 Years

I quote from the book generally to demonstrate how much the United Kingdom has changed in just in one lifetime.  Contemporary pupils find some of these observations jaw-dropping. 

Examples of passages I read aloud as part of the overall storyline

1964-65

Age: 2

England at that time had a very defined class system.  I think that it could be analysed in great detail, worthy of a doctoral thesis, but a broad representation would be as follows:

 

1. Royalty

2. Aristocracy

3. Upper classes

4. Middle classes

5. White working classes

6. Irish

7. Coloureds

 

In this society, my parents, who were from the educated middle classes in Karachi, found themselves in a very hostile environment, at the mercy of uneducated, uncouth people in terms of jobs and accommodation.  The latter, in the earliest days, was a series of bed-sits. A bed-sit, for the benefit of my American readers, is a part of a house that is rented out, consisting of a bedroom and living room (which may be the same room), and use of a bathroom and kitchen (which may be shared with other bed-sits).  The term ‘apartment’ is therefore too grand for this accommodation.  If the bed-sit consisted of two proper rooms, then Pakistanis invariably ended up sub-letting one of the rooms to other Pakistanis.

 

This wasn’t always due entirely just to lack of money. Accommodation was hard to come by for Pakistanis. Although many people in London were renting out rooms, some had signs which read ‘No Irish or Coloureds’.  The more progressive-minded ones had signs which read ‘No Coloureds’.

1972-73

Age: 9

Every Saturday I watch an amazing television programme called UFO.  It is set in the distant future – the 1980s.  Aliens keep attacking Earth and a secret organisation called SHADO is set up to defend us.  SHADO has a hidden underground headquarters; a moonbase; fleets of spacecraft, aircraft, submarines and armoured vehicles.  And cool cars which have doors that swing open upwards.  What I really like is that lots of coloured people work for SHADO.  The chief space pilot is a black man, and a young woman who looks Pakistani works at the headquarters.  (She never says much, but she wears a big medallion and a very tight uniform.)  It’s the same in Star Trek.  It means that, one day in the future, coloured people won’t be second class – we’ll just be normal.

1974-75

Age: 12

There are a few racist lowlifes even in my school.  It’s amazing that they could have passed the exam.  They are racially abusive and bullying towards me, for being a Paki, the only one in the school at this time (there are a couple of Indians and one black boy).  There is too much talk in the media and the gutter press about immigrants, who come over here and take people’s jobs, or get unemployment benefits (or both).  The lowlifes need to focus on the threat of immigrants in order to give themselves a feeling of superiority.  So, they focus on me.  The funny thing is, I can understand their point of view.  From their perspective, why wouldn’t they resent immigrants?  They even have their own political party, the National Front, whose key policy is that all coloured immigrants should be repatriated, sent back home.  This causes me great concern.  I imagine having to live in Pakistan, not just visit there.  I can’t read or write Urdu and I speak it clumsily, with an English accent.  I don’t see such an outcome as impossible.  Something much worse happened in Germany not so long ago, so why couldn’t such events happen here?  And we brown people stick out a lot more than European Jews.

 

The worst example of the lowlifes is Peldman.  He is in the year above me.  He has long, untidy hair, and a sullen face with an ugly black mole.  He wears his school uniform in a deliberately shabby way, the tie knotted carelessly, not reaching the bottom of his shirt.  Normally, I would have no interaction with a pupil in the year above.  But Peldman decides to insert himself, uninvited, into my life.  To him, I am a Paki who is not welcome in his country.  I can never pass him in the corridors or the cloisters without him making this point and subjecting me to verbal abuse.  This causes me always to have an element of tension as I walk around the school, and actual fear if I see him coming the other way.  On one occasion he spits at me and a huge glob of his repulsive saliva lands on my head.  I tamely wipe it off.  I don’t seem to have any other options.  There’s no question of complaining to a teacher; that would be pathetic.  I assume that racial abuse is a normal part of life, as I am a foreigner and I am different.

 

This is the only thing that clouds my experience of this school.

1977-78

Age: 15

There is still much talk of immigration; coloured people are flooding into the country, apparently, and many white people are angry and afraid about it.  A lot of people on television say that they will vote for the National Front and there is much concern that this party will actually get somewhere.  The spectre of being ‘repatriated’ still haunts me.  Mrs Thatcher very cleverly harvests those frightened votes.  I watch her in an interview one evening on World in Action saying: ‘… people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.’  Those words get played over and over again, on every news programme.  Swamped.  Some people say that she’s racist, but it’s very clever really – she gets the votes away from the National Front.  I think it would be a lot better if the Conservative Party gets in and just stops further immigration, than if the National Front gets in and sends us all ‘home’.  

 

Strangely enough, there’s a black man reading the television news these days. It seems unbelievable. His voice sounds very English and so does his name: Trevor McDonald.  Well, Scottish, I suppose.  But I doubt if anyone with a funny Asian name will ever read the news.  I can’t imagine that.

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Most of my slides are purely visual – however, this one demonstrates an important point:

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Imran speaking:  “When people are outraged by something terrible (for example, an act of terrorism), they often seek revenge.  If they cannot get to the actual guilty party, they may take revenge against anyone that they can associate with the actual guilty party – for example by race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc.  Shakespeare demonstrates this brilliantly and very poignantly in his play, Julius Caesar.  Caesar has been murdered by a group of conspirators, including Brutus and Cinna.  Caesar was very popular with the people, so angry crowds went on the rampage, seeking revenge.  They couldn’t find Cinna the Conspirator, but they came upon someone with the same name, Cinna the Poet.  They knew he wasn’t Cinna the Conspirator – but they killed him anyway, because they were so hungry for revenge.  Of course, this is completely irrational, but we humans have been behaving like this for thousands of years.  We will take revenge on anyone we can associate with the actual guilty party – even if they had nothing to do with it.  We must break this cycle.  Please don’t fall into this insanity – what I call the Tribal Trap.”

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The students are always riveted

— I am able to fully engage them because I can talk to them in a very relatable way. 

‘Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Oh, young people!  Harken unto me, for I have much great wisdom to bestow upon you, if ye will but take heed!  I will lead you unto Enlightenment.’  

You know this is a joke, right? 

Example from my engaging visuals ...

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'Can anyone guess?'

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