THE SPICE OF LIFE
EXHIBITION SHOWS HOW INDIANS HAVE ENRICHED CULTURE IN BRITAIN
THE TWO nations lie thousands of miles apart – with dramatically different cultures, climates and histories.
Scotland has had generations of close links with India.
From Queen Victoria’s historic meetings with her Indian friend Abdul Karim at Balmoral – as documented in the new movie Victoria & Abdul – to bonds over literature, industry and trade, Scotland and India have forged bonds well beyond the sunset of the British Empire.
Now, a travelling outdoor exhibition celebrating the cultural and social crossovers between the UK and India is coming to Scotland.
At the Heart of the Nation: India in Britain opens tomorrow in Edinburgh’s Mound Precinct.
It features a collection of images showing the links between Britain and the subcontinent. From Punjabi peddlars going door to door with their wares to nannies returning with formerly colonial families to forge lives in Scotland and modern trailblazers such as veteran marathon runner Fauja Singh, the free exhibition shows how deep the connections go.
Napier University professor Bashabi Fraser is director of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies, who celebrate links to India.
She is holding a talk as part of
the exhibition and said: “There is a strong cultural history between Scotland and India.
“The initial phase was in the 1930s, with many immigrant workers and itinerant peddlars moving to Scotland and going door to door selling things women might need in the house. “There were also a lot of students who would come to Scotland – to Edinburgh for medicine, Glasgow for engineering and Dundee for jute technology. Jute was a great link between Scotland and India. There was a direct link between Dundee and Calcutta and the fortunes of the two cities were tied with a global market influencing everything.
“Scotland was very welcoming to students, with the incentive that they could stay and work for two years to pay off their student loans but that has stopped now because of immigration policy.
“More recently, there have been cultural links in music and film. Since the unrest in Kashmir, many films have been shot in Scotland as it offers a similar landscape, if not so warm.”
Prof Fraser added: “There are fragments of India in many Scots, whether it’s uncles born there or grandmothers married in India, so associations run deep.”
The exhibition has been put together by Professor Susheila Nasta of the Open University in collaboration with Dr Florian Stadtler, of Exeter University, and the Open University’s Dr Maya Parmar. It is based on archival sources and coincides with the India-UK Year of Culture for 2017. Prof Nasta said: “By touring this exhibition, we want to swivel the perspective and examine India’s role within Britain rather than Britain’s well-documented historical presence in India.
“The images trace IndianBritish interactions across the divides of race, class, and gender, drawing public attention to the complex realities of both countries’ intertwined histories.
“We hope this will fire imaginations and provoke reflection on the huge impact India and South Asia has had on contemporary British life.”
ROAD RUNNER Centenarian Sikh marathon runner fauja Singh in Edinburgh in 2011, above
MATERNAL INFLUENCE Two nursemaids from Madras (Chennai) with their young charges in Glasgow‘s Great western Road in 1925, right
ROYAL BOND Queen Victoria with indian friend abdul Karim at Balmoral Castle in the 1880s. Pic: British Library
LINKS Prof Bashabi fraser