From India to Edinburgh with Bashabi Fraser

PART OF THE Perspectives ISSUE

‘As I journey back and forth / From your spiritual hearth / To the bracing north’

Bashabi Fraser’s work is often autobiographical and typically explores the vibrant cross-cultural connections between India and Scotland. In these poems from her latest collection, Fraser affectionately looks back on the relationship with her late mother while exploring the personal, yet also universal, experience of losing a loved one.


Shamsad Rahim

For the Bangladeshi community

You were their mother hen,

Protective and compassionate

Holding them under your generous wing.

For your friends who knew you

You were their full moon

Your broad smile their welcome

That made their hearts sing.

For your own loving family

You were their pole star

Reliable and constant

Who watched everything.


For your colleagues who valued you

You were their corner stone

Your presence an essence

Like a fresh mountain spring.


For your two cherished countries

Of Scotland and Bangladesh

You were a torchbearer

Of eternal wellbeing.


A presence in absence

It was warm Ma, when I left Kolkata

It was 4º the night I arrived in Edinburgh

I left Baba with moist eyes and a longing, lingering look

I met Neil with his delighted smile and sense of relief

In every room in Kolkata, you looked down on me

At every door in Edinburgh, I felt your absence

I tasted your sophisticated artistry in every meal there

I missed the intimacy of affectionate offering at my table here

The gardens had the green sheen of your magic touch there

While here our grass is sheeted under the silence of snowy fingers

Kolkata was troubled with the pressure of its millions

While Edinburgh streets were muffled and deserted

But this time Ma, the Boi Mela1 saw a confluence

As the Scottish Pavilion took centre stage

And Scots made the headlines and mingled with the city

The ghosts in the Scots Cemetery woke up and waltzed

In the corner that is forever Scotland

For the tropical grass has been cut back

To give them a dance floor as they celebrate life on the Hugli

The restoration of their gravestones in a renewal

Of a shared history, which flows like a tide

Between a tale of two cities unfolding

As I journey back and forth

From your spiritual hearth

To the bracing north

Carrying your presence in my very breath

My mother.

1 Book Fair – a reference to the Kolkata Book Fair in 2009 when Scotland was the Theme Country.

Letters to my Mother and Other Mothers by Bashabi Fraser is out now published by Luath Press priced £8.99. You can read more poems from the collection here.

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