Queen’s Honours: Veteran poet Dabirul gets OBE at age 101 after his thousand garden laps in Bow for NHS
- Credit: Atuque Choudhury
The Queen’s Birthday Honours List had a special mention for Dabirul Islam Choudhury, who at the age of 100 thought nothing of doing almost 1,000 laps round his 240ft-long garden in Bow for the NHS.
He has been made an OBE for his “charitable service” during the Covid-19 emergency, having raised £420,000 for coronavirus relief by walking while fasting for Ramadan.
Around £300,000 went to Ramadan Relief Fund to be divided among 30 charities in 52 countries, and £116,000 to the NHS with a cheque presented last week.
Dabirul, now turned 101, is well known for his many recitals in community halls and public libraries reading Shakespeare and poetry, a regular performer at the Bow Idea Store in Roman Road near where he lives, right up till lockdown.
He’s an avid poet himself, having penned around 2,000 works who also makes them up on the spot if you ask him.
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“Just give one word and he’ll put a poem together from it,” his son Atique told the East London Advertiser.
“Entertainment to him is the written word. He recites Shakespeare from his photographic memory.
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“Dad has a strong will—I tell him not to do 50 laps at his age and he does 100!”
Dabirul studied English literature at King’s College when he first arrived in London from East Pakistan in 1957, but is really more than just a wordsmith. He worked in a rubber factory in St Alban’s after graduating, then in aircraft engineering, for many years a factory shop steward active in trade union affairs.
That was before coming to east London 20 years ago at the age of 80 to open a deli take-away in Hackney Road with his younger wife Khaleda. They met in East Pakistan.
His family are very much into catering. Atique, at 57, owns the Yum Yum restaurant in Stoke Newington started when dad’s deli opened.
Grandson Rishi, 23, Atique’s son, set up Dabirul’s JustGiving fundraising page that did so proudly for the NHS after being featured on Channel S Asian TV.
Dabirul’s sponsored walk around his large garden in Wright’s Road was a self-challenge to do 100 laps during the Islamic holy month, with donations to help those affected by coronavirus in Britain and Bangladesh—but he kept going and actually did 970 laps.
He was inspired by Second World War veteran Captain Tom Moore who began walking 99 laps in April at the age of 99 to raise just £1,000 by his 100th birthday. But it attracted a-million-and-a-half followers when it went viral, netting an astonishing £33m for the NHS and netting Tom a knighthood.
It got Dabirul going in Bow with his initial aim to raise £1,000, which he hit within hours. That, too, went viral and he raised 420 times his goal!
But that’s not the end of it. Dabirul and Capt Tom, now Sir Tom, had a chat online last month.
Word has it that the veteran centenarians might be getting together for a joint fundraiser for the NHS.
Dabirul’s family say nothing stops him once he puts his mind to it.
Four others from the East End are also named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours including two Tower Hamlets school staff members, Syed Uddin, who teachers Bengali at Oaklands Secondary in Bethnal Green honoured for “services to education and the community” and Anne Ewin, a mentor Mulberry School for Girls in Stepney, for “services to secondary education”. The others are Elizabeth Marshall and Sajjad Miah for “services to the community”.