Saturday, March 25, 2017
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Lifestyle

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AZAD JAMMU & KASHMIR

Rather than forking out thousands to top up your tan flying to world renowned destinations such New York, Paris and Barcelona, how about a destination that offers you beautiful weather, breath taking natural scenery and a unique cultural experience. Azad Jammu & Kashmir is very rich in natural beauty with its snow-covered peaks, dense forests, winding rivers, turbulent foaming streams, wheat-scented valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from arctic to tropical. All these ingredients join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction. Valleys like Neelum, Jhelum, Leepa, Rawalakot, Banjosa, and Samahni & Baghser unfold delightful scenic beauty and provide a feast of pleasure to a discerning tourist’s eyes. Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a fascinating land of people, languages & culture and the texture of present population is composed of races claiming their descent from Semitic, Mongoloid, Aryans, Persians, Turks and Arabs. The people of districts Kotli, Mirpur & Bhimber are sturdy, simple, truthful and deeply attached to their land. The culture of this area resembles to that of the adjoining area of Punjab.

History

The Kashmir dispute is the oldest unresolved international dispute in the world today. Pakistan considers Kashmir as its core political dispute with India. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has historically remained independent, except in the anarchical conditions of the late 18th and first half of the 19th century, or when incorporated in the vast empires set up by the Mauryas (3rd century BC), the Mughals (16th to 18th century) and the British (mid-19th to mid-20th century).

Government

The State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir has a parliamentary form of Government. The President is the constitutional head of the State, while the Prime Minister, supported by a Council of Ministers, is the Chief Executive. The democratic setup was introduced in 1970 under the presidential system on the basis of adult franchise. For the first time the people of AJ&K and the refugees of Jammu and Kashmir elected the Legislative Assembly as well as President for Azad Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of adult franchise. In 1975, for the first time in the history of AJ&K, a parliamentary system was introduced where the Prime Minister was elected by the majority of the votes of the Legislative Assembly.

Airports

The Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Pakistan has constructed two small airports at Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot cities in the recent past in order to provide an easy and fast mode of travel (flights presently suspended). The facility is also expected to be extended to the cities of Mirpur and Kotli.

Geographical features

Area – 5134 Square Miles (13297 Square Kilometres)

Topography – Mainly hilly and mountainous with valleys and plains

Climate – Sub-tropical highland type

Temperature – 45.2 degrees Celsius (maximum) -2.5 degrees Celsius (minimum)

Main rivers – Jhelum, Neelum, Poonch

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A TASTE OF MYLAHORE

Growing up in the Great Horton area of Bradford in the eighties, Asghar Ali was like many other children. Whilst studying hard to achieve what he wanted in life, he also had the responsibility of helping his mother and father with their family business. Along with his six siblings, they would all take shifts to run the newsagent and restaurant as well as balance their academic obligations.

Today, Asghar Ali is the CEO of one of the soundest brands in northern Britain. As we meet at his office in Bradford, Ali is well-groomed and has subtle shades of veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan with his aeon charm and attire. Calm, collective and attentive, I ask him to take me on his intimate journey from where it all started from…

“I started at my father’s restaurant at the age of ten on weekends and the newsagent on weekdays. I grew up around people and the community so it gave an opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life at a very early age. As time went on, I got more and more involved with the family business and my studies were affected. That was the case with a lot of Pakistani family businesses back then where the guys got involved with the businesses,” he tells me whilst fondly reminiscing his childhood.

As Ali states, many children of immigrants from south Asia in the seventies and eighties were given the added responsibility of entering the family business as well as the high expectations to excel in academics. The pressure to balance the two can either make you or break you but Ali had a vision from a young age and realised that through hard work and determination he could achieve his goals.

“An incident occurred when I was eighteen where I had to go and buy some stock for the newsagent and I vaguely remember it was during Ramadan. I was very hungry and the van that we had at the time was very temperamental. Most times we had to jump start it to get it going. On this occasion it didn’t start and I had to push the van up the hill to get the stock to the shop in time. It was the worst experience I ever had and it is then that I said to myself that I cannot be doing this anymore.”

“Even though my family and loved ones meant well, it was at that point that I knew I had to get away and the only way I could justify leaving my parents and business was education.”

For the next five years Ali travelled to Leicester University to further his studies whilst his siblings continued supporting their parents with the newsagent and restaurant. During this time, the restaurant was sold and the family concentrated on the property business.

Meanwhile in Leicester, Ali took to University life like a “duck to water” and the sense of freedom and independence made him have a clearer outlook on life. But five years later when it was time to come back to Bradford, Ali was in for a major shock.

“When I came back after five years, the first riots had just happened on the weekend I arrived and I remember thinking to myself, wow, this is the place I grew up in. I walked around the affected areas and I kept asking myself why? Why am I in Bradford? Why have I come back to this city that is in so much turmoil? But deep down I knew I had to come back. It was a sense of belonging. This is my city and I want to change it for the better.”

The 1995 the Manningham riot was a pivotal point in many Bradfordians lives. There was a sense of anger and disappointment as well as frustration. Many businesses folded in the process as investment within the city almost came to standstill and the clean-up bill would take the city a further ten years back.

As much as Ali was also going through a pivotal point in his life, he knew that his future would lie in Bradford where he had grown up.

“I didn’t want to be in Bradford at the time. Even though I am very loyal to the city and love it to bits, I felt disorientated. But I had an allegiance towards my family and could not let them down. Whilst in Leicester I would dine out a lot with friends at different restaurants and it gave me a different perspective on the restaurant trade. It was whilst at University that the seed was planted to open a young and cool Asian restaurant in Bradford”.

The seed may have been planted by the ambitious youngster but many south Asian parents sent their children to University to become lawyers, doctors and engineers. How would Ali’s father react to his plans?

“My father looked at me in disgust. He said you have a degree and you want to open a curry house? He didn’t give me his blessings and refused to give me any money to open the restaurant. In hindsight he was right. He told me to get a job, raise my own money and then open a restaurant.”

For the next five years Ali’s dream was on hold as he found a job at a bank. It was not his ideal profession but it allowed him the financial freedom to take care of his home whilst saving every penny to realise his ultimate dream. But things were just about to take a turn for the better.

“In 2003 an opportunity came by to open a restaurant on Great Horton Road. It was called Lahore but not doing any business. My father-in-law wanted to find something for his sons, who were quite young at the time, and asked whether I would come on board with my experience. I jumped at the chance and as my father-in-law put in all the money, along with Shak [my brother-in-law and business partner] and his younger brothers, we took over the restaurant and never looked back.”

In ten years, Asghar Ali along with his father-in-law and brother-in-laws have made a failing business into one of Yorkshire’s most successful food eateries. Vision, tenacity and a never say die attitude contribute to the success of My Lahore, a brand that is today as communal and eminent as any other.

Asghar Ali’s story is what the Urban Echo aims to bring forth. Highlighting an individual from a working class family and humble beginnings to becoming the CEO of a very successful business and brand. We all know the brand but the aim of this feature was to tell the story behind the brand. The struggles, the disagreements, the highs and the lows all contribute to stories of success and achievement. Ali’s story is inspirational and it is down to the youngsters in our region to use him as a role model and an example of what can be achieved in life if you have a vision and are willing to embark on a life journey similar to that of Asghar Ali.

Irfan Ajeeb, Editor – Urban Echo

FIGHTING FIT.

With your personal trainer Jonny Storton

Ever wondered how to lose that excess weight that just seems to stay there? Maybe you do hundreds of sit ups a day but the waistline still seems to be growing.

There are no secrets about staying in shape. A healthy diet is the first and foremost necessity supported by an active lifestyle all contribute to a healthy body and mind.

This month we look at the most common problem for both men and women… wanting a flat stomach. Your daily diet plays a big part and to start off with you should look at how many calories are consumed on a daily basis. According to leading doctors and nutritionists,within a healthy balanced diet, a man needs around 10,500kJ (2,500kcal) a day to maintain his weight. For a woman, that figure is around 8,400kJ (2,000kcal) a day.

Once your calories intake is under control, you can then plan a weekly workout that you feel comfortable with. Either exercising in the garage, back garden or joining a gym, you can look great and feel great if the willingness or determination is their regardless of age, weight or gender.

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A Bradford man aims to jump for the stars in the growing trend of ‘freerunning’…

Jumping from one building rooftop to another whilst doing a front somersault is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some youngsters it is a passion and is fast becoming a growing trend in the UK. For most aspiring sports stars, they grow up hoping to be the next Michael Jordan or Lennox Lewis, but not for 21 year old Dwayne Clarke. Born and raised in Bradford, Clarke is creating quite a scene, nationally with his impressive freerunning, also known as Parkour to the students of this sport.

Parkour (freerunning) is a holistic training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training. Practitioners aim to get from A to B in the most effective way possible. They do this by using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves. Parkour can include obstacle courses, running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping and rolling, depending on what movement is deemed most suitable for the given situation.

Clarke has now been practicing this sport for the last five years and draws his inspiration from acclaimed freerunners Paul ‘Blue’ Joseph and Liverpool based Daniel Ilabaca, who is also one of the founders of the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation.

“Freerunning started in France and I instantly fell in love with it the moment I tried it out four years ago,” he states. “At first my parents were quite hesitant as it can be a dangerous sport and injuries are pretty common but they realized how passionate I was about it and have supported me since. I see it as a career,” he told the Urban Echo.

Training for this sport is unique. Seldom are weights used to build muscle as participants rely more on flexibility and core strength meaning plenty of pull ups, press ups and countless stomach crunches. Not forgetting road work to build stamina and endurance.

Asked about his training schedule, Clarke talks about his own technique. “I practice endlessly by jumping over walls. Big walls, small walls or any other structure that I feel I can use to test my technique. It’s all about the movement, the flow. Knowing your body is very important… what you are natural at and what you need to work on.”

As an active member of the Bradford Gymnastics Club, Clarke aims to become a professional freerunner like his idols and perfect the sport he chosen to purse as a career. He has a humble attitude and ranks himself as no better than his counterparts as he feels they all bring something new to the table with their skills.

He is currently a huge hit on YouTube with his videos and sees himself travelling the world within five years participating in major competitions and competing with the elite of freerunners across the globe.

Freerunning is fast becoming a preferred sport for many youngsters in the UK. Though it is not formally recognized as a sport as of yet, one can also refer to it as an art form. The movement of the human body flowing through the air in different angles jumping over walls, cars, railings and rooftops is a mesmerizing sight. The skill involved is immense and the courage to try this is just as impressive.

For Dwayne Clarke this just the beginning. He realizes the obstacles and hard work he has to endure to reach his goal as one the best freerunners in the UK… then maybe the world. The Urban Echo team wish him all the best.

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