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    September 22

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MY STORY: From Bengal to Barbados

CARLOS ATWELL, carlosatwell@nationnews.com

Added 31 May 2016

sabir-nakhuda

Sabir Nakhuda showing a picture of himself and his brother in India. He said he had fond memories of growing up but Barbados was home. (Picture by Nigel Browne)

As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.

BARBADOS IS ONE of the best places to live on earth and you do not have to be born here to think so.

Just ask Sabir Nakhuda, who migrated to Barbados from India at an early age and, despite keeping close ties with his country of birth, regards this little island as home sweet home. This is his story.

“In India, I remember going to school and learning the Koran at my religious school as well as subjects such as Maths at my secular school,” he said.

Nakhuda was born in the Gujarat province. He said then there was no electricity or running water so he had to light lamps and go to the well.

“Back then I remember playing with a lot of mud toys. Enjoyable times, lots of fun. We were not very rich but we were self-sufficient. I left India when I was ten years old and I go back often though all my old friends have moved out. Both my religious and secular school have expanded now,” he said.

Nakhuda, 68, said the transition from India to Barbados was a relatively easy one, thanks in no small part to the welcoming nature of the Barbadian people. Even so, he said it took some getting accustomed to.

“There was a tremendous difference between the two countries when I came to Barbados 58 years ago, seeing people of darker complexion with a different physiog but I was not afraid; their kindness and friendliness made it okay.

“The girls loved pretty Indian hair; it was fun having them follow me around. I went school at Wesley Hall and even the teachers were fascinated with me as there were not many East Indians here at the time. I made friends with both the black people and the poor whites and on evenings I remember watching the Police Force Band practise at their old headquarters in Kings Street, where I lived.

“The adjustment to Barbados was very smooth because of the friendly attitude. They showed love and kindness and that has continued throughout my life, up to today. Barbadians are level-headed and don’t discriminate, I have never encountered any racism here. Barbados then and now is still the best place on earth. Even when I go to India, I only feel at home when I return here; Barbados is home,” he said.

After schooldays, Nakhuda became a salesman before landing a job at the Barbados Advocate in the marketing department. When an offshoot of that publishing company formed Nariton Publishing, he became the marketing manager of that publication.

Nakhuda met his first wife in the 70s. He said his good looks attracted her and what followed was a union of 13 years which produced a son and a daughter.

“She probably found me to be handsome; she was crazy about me,” he said.

Alas, that marriage came to an end but throughout, Nakhuda kept his faith.

“In life, one always goes through trials and tribulations but it is how you overcome those challenges. You must always put your trust in the Lord. I believe my challenges were a test by God Almighty Allah.

“I had financial challenges and social challenges, I went through a divorce which can be very emotionally challenging but once you trust in the Lord you will get through,” he said.

In the 90s, Nakhuda met his second and current wife. He said she had a daughter from a previous marriage and they had a son together, adding: “We are all one family.”

Now retired, with author and researcher added to his list of achievements, Nakhuda can reflect life in Barbados, both the good and bad.

“In the past we were our neighbours’ keepers. Technology is good but there are also shortcomings. Now people are living in the heights and terraces, the village is no longer raising the child. The whole concept of life has changed but human nature has not and more than ever we need to look out for each other.

“We have thrown morality and spirituality through the window. I used to see children going to Sunday school but now the parents aren’t going to church so how can you expect the children to and that’s why our society is where it is today. The purpose of a church is to come together and meet, sometimes a good sermon or a good word from a church member can soothe your mind. We have become more materialistic and selfish but times have changed and I can understand that. Still, we could try to go back and instil some of that neighbourliness and go back to God,” he said.

Despite all that, the deeply spiritual Nakhuda remains steadfast in his love of Barbados and the Barbadian people.

“From the first day I came here I was building bridges. Throughout my life I have kept doing it and I will continue and I want to make them stronger irrespective of colour, race or religion. We are all Bajan and we all have a role to see how we can make our country great. As an East Indian Muslim I believe we are a shining light to the world, an example of how all of us can live in harmony.

“God has been kind to Barbados, just go to some of the other islands to see. We have many things to be thankful for. I have had a very good life,” he said.

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