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Akhter Rahman’s rich life is a result of the choices she’s made – to keep her native identity thriving while assimilating well with the mainstream
Psychology and the mind. Music and emotion.
Akhter Rahman is both a psychologist and a musician, and like so many of us, has made Australia her home.
Well-known for singing Bengali songs and Hindustani ghazals, she is a star of the Bengali community in Adelaide having arrived here 43 years ago.
Music has been Akhter’s life-long passion and she performed professionally in Dhaka before coming to Australia. Thinking of times long gone, she recalls her mother singing in a very melodious voice while playing the harmonium.
As a psychologist she understands very well the deep emotive power that music has on the mind.
She also sings in a choir now, something quite different to her own music group Jazz Masala. In the past she has sung at Womadelaide and on ABC Radio and has made CDs of her music.
Akhter admits that she might have been better off in a larger city for her musical aspirations. But then, accepting her situation, she says, “Australia is my Bangladesh. Adelaide is my Dhaka. It’s what you do with it. It’s a state of mind. You have to make the most of where you are. And that’s what I do.” And in this she has succeeded admirably.
With her interest in social justice and women’s education, Akhter joined Zonta, an international organisation devoted to advancing the status of women. Zonta’s monthly dinners provide the social balance to their activities.
She believes in remaining active and independent and recognises the importance of exercise for her health. So she walks with the Heart Foundation Walking Group, does Pilates, light weights and stays physically active.
“Life has taught one nothing is an obstacle. Everything is a challenge. It’s about learning and growing. Not just keeping healthy but keeping good chemicals flowing and enjoying a quality of life,” Akhter said as we drank our coffee.
She talks enthusiastically about her volunteer work for Meals on Wheels. She finds this very satisfying and has developed friendships and feels contentment through volunteering.
And as part of ACH Adelaide, an aged care service organisation, she was recently involved in making a short film in which she appeared with others.
Too often we try to recreate what we have left behind in our homeland. On this Akhter says, “I would rather have what I have than think of what I have lost.” We insulate ourselves by sticking to our own group, ignoring the richness surrounding us.
As Akhter says, very wisely, “The way I look at life, it’s not about you. It is what it’s supposed to be. You have to wait, have certain ideas, and you have to be open to discover what is there for you rather than close your eyes.”
This very positive point of view implores us not to just sit around waiting for something to happen because it never will. We have to go out, make an effort, get involved and take part in life around us.
It’s not surprising that Akhter is not short of friends and companions both in her own and in the wider local community.
She enjoys going to the ballet, the opera and going for coffee or dining out with her friends. And then there is the fortnightly film evening with yet another group.
Still working part-time, Akhter is genuinely pleased to be of help to her patients and finds the work richly rewarding.
Talking to her I realise she has given of herself to her adopted country and has taken from her new surroundings thus enriching herself and those around her.
A positive attitude, clear thinking about what life holds and active participation in the local community have been the key to her successful assimilation in the community.