Podcast: Performance of From The Ganga To The Tay – Epic Poem by Prof Bashabi Fraser
The epic poem, From the Ganga to the Tay is about the Ganges and the Tay, two great rivers which are a continent apart involved in conversation about a shared history they live. In this performance of Bashabi Fraser’s work set to music, you get the chance to listen to the themes which she has used to illuminate the connections between Scotland and India highlighting the bodies of water as natural symbols of continuity and of peace.
The rythms and turns of the writing takes us on heady narratives down the banks of these legendary arteries filling our heads with myths and figures which seem to have escaped time. The performance gives appropriate life to the content and stories sufficient to imagine some of the photographs which accompany the work in the book itself.
The photography in the book is a mixture of Bashabi’s images and those of Scottish artist Kenny Munro who she has collaborated on a number of occassions. Munro said about our modern relationship with the rivers: ‘The mythical qualities of Indian rivers is profound, with daily rituals imprinted in community consciousness. Scotland’s rivers were also recognised as the life blood of mother earth, and considered sacred, but cultural evolution seems to have clouded our ancestors’ respect for Scotland’s most powerful river, the Tay.
This reverence of nature and the things which give us life might make us pause for a moment and look to our deforested hills and wonder what they are saying to us as we continue into our future.
Fraser has raised the voices of the Indian subcontinent guiding our thoughts from the skies, down through the mountains and ravines of the highest peaks on earth making all parts of them visceral to the listener, to the reader. It is a personal story, a journey which seems to anthropomorphise us who have got lost in the cities as she weaves a dialogue around the sacred nature of these water sources that support countless lives.
Like a bird flying overhead, through her words we are taken through the lives of busy cultures on the banks like an eternally unfolding flower we peer into; a living fractal cloth which binds together the paisley patterns escaped from the looms. She has personified the entangled nature of the manifold lives of human beings across time and across space.
This work is a powerful reminder of the links which bind the two cultures of Scotland and India together warmly and with affection. Scotland is now infused with the knowledge, culture and cuisine of India, happy as bed fellows. It is obvious as part of her larger work to make larger and more evident the connections which have borne so much fruit.
Bashabi Fraser continues the lineage of great internationalist thinkers, philosophers and poets who help us transcend our colloquial beginnings. It is no wonder that she worked closely with Rabindranath Tagore and carries forward his legacy as the director of The Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies whilst simultaneously developing her own distinct and unique contributions to the arts and intellectual world.
She acts as a guide to the uninitiated filling the poetry with the lore and traditions of Hinduism in bright colours that animate such spectacular visions; these are met with the knotting of the Celtic bound together as we have been told from the beginning, with the ebb and flow of the two great rivers. Just as these come of tributaries, so with narrative Fraser has brought together seemingly disparate worlds in the body of poetry. Politics and geography, folklore and storytelling, economics and the arts; they are all textures in the pallete she uses to show the binding crucible of the world in full colour.
Whilst this is rooted in the ancient pasts, it is also obvious the futures which are being spun here bringing her understandings and work of the Postcolonial Literature and Theory she specialises in. The blood of the lands have been mixed and shared; Scots have flown to the Ganga and Indians have come to the Tay – identities have mingled and produced new consciousnesses.
Her work on bringing together the correspondances of the two visionary thinkers Rabindranath Tagore and Patrick Geddes is another marker of a transcendent motif that helps us look out towards the horizon with thoughtfulness on how to reach for a better life. This is a beautiful work which will hopefully prompt everyone to engage with the big issues we are all involved with drawing contemporary understandings from Postcolonial thinking which Scotland and the world can benefit from.
At the same time she cares and shows respect for traditions and transitions via the animus in her colourful poetry. Nothing great is easy, seems to be whispered behind its thruming flow, and simultaneously the sweet notes of lyricism move easily across conflicted subjects, histories and pasts suggesting that is might be as simple to move into the future as it is for a pair of lovebirds to fall in love.