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The “unknown” Caribbean.

An island known as the epicentre for Caribbean change and harmony, Barbados is a destination with an unusual history and a dedication to punch above its weight for environmental, cultural and economic custodianship.  It has also made international headlines with its change to a Republic in 2021.

The first global Indian to accidentally stumbled upon the island was from a lone man from  present day Bengal in 1910 and today a thriving community of Gujaratis, Sindhis and South Indians. Today  I am joined by Suleiman Bulbulia, a first-generation Barbadian who discusses the weight of expectations upon this small tropical state; from the local perception of the Monarchy through to the new generations of PIO’s who are fighting for Barbados on the world stage.

About  Suleiman Bulbulia

Mr. Bulbulia’s philosophy is shaped through the recognition that the Barbados of today is the result of many years of collective struggle and sacrifice by our ancestors, who made it their lifelong goal to ensure Barbados is a strong, vibrant, independent country rightly having the acclaim given to it as capable of “punching above its weight”.

His father arrived at these shores on a ship from India in 1953, a young man in his early twenties, an orphan, with just the metal suitcase of clothes he carried. He set about on foot to make a living for himself as an itinerant tradesman. It was through these experiences and his father’s recollection of Barbados at those times that he appreciates the immense sacrifices earlier Barbadians made so that we all can benefit today.

His mother, the daughter of an East Indian migrant in union with Mr. Bulbulia’s grandmother, a women of mixed African/Irish heritage from Shorey Village, St. Andrew, also played a role in setting the foundation for Mr. Bulbulia’s dedication to nation building through hard work, commitment, and strength of character.

Coming from humble means, with strong roots in values of faith, family and duty to community and country, Mr. Bulbulia’s passion for faith, social causes and national development began in his early years as a teenager at the Christ Church Foundation School and continued into his young adult life at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus where he served on the Students Guild as International Affairs Chair.

Understanding at the time that Barbados was still very much confined to its colonial mindset, Mr. Bulbulia set out with a vision to help Barbados become a place of inclusivity, understanding and harmony. Even when faced with adversity, discrimination and hate, he remained steadfast in his ability to be the bridge for connecting communities kept apart by race and religion.  He is driven by his passion to see a Barbados, where all Barbadians live together being their brother and sister’s keeper, cooperating, contributing and supporting each other.  He is a firm believer that the size of our island is no way representative of the potential, capacity, and strength of our people. A philosophy he has carried wherever he has been in the world representing Barbados.

Suleiman Bulbulia is Muslim Chaplain at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association, a post he has held since 2000. He is also Director and co-founder of Barbados Halal Experience, a company set up to promote and offer halal tourism services in Barbados.

Mr. Bulbulia represents the interests of the Islamic faith and Muslims to the Government of Barbados, inter-faith activities, national, regional, and international organizations. In this capacity and as a member of several regional and international bodies, he has represented Barbados at conferences and meetings around the world.

He is a weekly columnist for the online daily news website Barbados Today.

He has sat on several Boards as a Government appointee. These Boards included: The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, the Barbados Broadcasting Authority, and the St. Michael School, of which he is still a member. He currently sits on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee and the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Development Committee. And most recently a member of the Republican Status Transition Advisory Committee.He was also the Muslim representative on the Religious Advisory Committee on National Affairs from 2005 to 2008. Appointed by the Prime-Minister & Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs to advise Government on matters of national importance from a religious perspective and made up of representatives of the major religious faiths. Currently he sits on the Clergy Committee of the Ministry of Peoples Empowerment and Elder Affairs, which has responsibility for Ecclesiastical Affairs, as the Muslim representative.

He had the honor of delivering the sermon/address at the National Thanksgiving Service for Barbados’ 54th anniversary of Independence in 2020.

Mr. Bulbulia is in his second year as the Chair of the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition of the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados.

Mr. Bulbulia is an honors graduate of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Management Studies. He manages one of the larger fabric and home furnishing companies on the island.

He is also a guest lecturer at the University of the West Indies, the Barbados Community College and the Regional Police Training Centre on subjects relating to Islam, Muslims, and diverse cultures.

Mr. Bulbulia was appointed a ‘Justice of the Peace’ in April 2010.

Mr. Bulbulia is married and the proud father of two daughters and a son.

About the Global Indian Series:

My name is Rajan Nazran Chief Explorer for the Global Indian Series, the official platform for people of Indian origin (PIO), because let’s face it, we are everywhere!

For almost 15 years we have travelled across the globe covering 58 countries to date whilst exploring the kaleidoscope of our remarkable 50 shades of brown community.

Voyaging to the edges of the Amazon, facing Ebola in West Africa, being held hostage in Eastern Europe, tapping rubber in Malaysia, drinking chai with Heads of State and sharing laughter with local fishermen – I have been there, looking for us!

Our purpose is simple, to build a living encyclopaedia of the human experience of the community and a safe mooring ground for open discussions, whether you are an NRI, Indian Diaspora, person of Indian origin (PIO) or a fan of South Asian anthropology, what we do is bring people and communities together.

We do this by plunging into the human experience of being a person of Indian origin (PIO), taking a second look at the countries we now call home and tackling the conversations we need to know more about.

Through our range of award-winning original content (print, podcasts, events and TV) and fascinating discussions, our impactful stories and platforms have spearheaded national and international conversations that have brought people together.  Our work is featured in global brands including The Indian Express through to the CNBC network.

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Interested in getting involved in building the world’s largest living encyclopaedia on the community? Whether you want to become a patron, buy us a chai in a new location or have your story shown, simply get in touch via our website, we would love to hear from you.

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Special thank you to TAIZU for the music

Episode: 112

Presenter – Rajan Nazran

Producer –Global Indian Series/NazranRoth

Guests in order:

Suleiman Bulbulia

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