Looking back at Barbodhan community

11 October 2002

A BOLTON man has developed a unique historical website and is urging others to follow suit.

Ibrahim Kala, of Henley Grove, Daubhill, has over the past two years put together a website and published a booklet documenting the experiences of members of the Barbodhan community who settled in Bolton.

Ibrahim said, “In 2000, I started writing about the history of my father’s generation, who came from India and Burma to come and work in England. I felt that this had to be done and documented. Failure to do this would have meant losing their experiences and accounts of when they first settled in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Ibrahim found that some of the key people he needed to speak to had passed away.

He said, “I interviewed those who arrived in the period and asked them about their life and work experiences. Interviews were carried out with about 10 people. A small charitable trust gave me funding to have the booklet printed, and I distributed it free of charge.

“I was later able to attract funding to get the booklet translated as the elder generation, although conversant in English, preferred it in their mother tongue language of Gujerati.”

In 2001, Ibrahim applied to the Campaign for Learning for a grant to write a second booklet with more interviews. They also liked the idea of a community website but needed to complete the project by December 2002.

Ibrahim is looking to publish a second booklet by the beginning of next year.

During the research, he found out that members of the Barbodhan community were instrumental, along with other communities, in setting up the first mosques, cricket teams, and football teams in the north-west of England.

The booklet has been in demand by agencies such as archive libraries, as very little of this type of material is available. It was distributed free of charge to schools and other community groups. Booklets were also sent out to India, Canada, and Mauritius.

The village of Barbodhan is in the western state of Gujerat, India. According to local folklore, the name Barbodhan comes from the term “Babul Aden,” or translated into English, this would mean “Gateway to Aden.”

It is known that in the early days, Muslims travelling to Mecca on pilgrimage passed through this small village to reach the seaport, hence the name. More recently, the village of Barbodhan was known as the “Golden Village.”

Ibrahim feels his efforts will hopefully encourage others to look into their backgrounds. He said, “History is too important to be left to the historians. We all have an obligation to find out about our relatives and ancestors and the hardships they suffered around the world.

“At the end of the day, I have learned a great deal and will no doubt learn a lot more. Let the website not be a secret but a catalyst for other communities to do likewise and then share our experiences together.”

The website address is www.barbodhan.org