Nalini Paul

Nalini Paul is a widely published poet and has collaborated across various art forms, including stage and film. She was George Mackay Brown Writing Fellow in Orkney from 2009 until 2010, where she worked with dancers, musicians, visual artists, archaeologists and the RSPB. Her first poetry pamphlet, Skirlags (Red Squirrel Press), was shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Award in 2010. Nalini’s project with Stellar Quines Theatre Company, Beyond the Mud Walls, is set partly in early 1940s India and was showcased for ‘Rehearsal Rooms’ at the Traverse in September 2016. She is currently working on a poetry collection inspired by The Bhagavad Gita and her stay at Grez-sur-Loing, France, as a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow in 2017. Nalini undertook a residency in Lewis and in Kolkata as part of the ‘New Passages’ project (2017-18), exploring connections between India and Scotland.

Photo: James J. Coleman


New Passages »

A project on links between India and the Isle of Lewis

Thu 7 March - Sun 10 March | 10:00 - 22:00 | FREE | The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, Level 2 Foyer



Quinine was used against malaria in India;
so the British drank tonic with their gin.

You’ve faded into patio
chit-chat, under yacht-friendly skies,
            ospreys looming into view
and everyone so much whiter than you.

Words fall like Empires;
discarded relics glint and wink:
            the Koh-i-Noor
            inlaid mother-of-pearl.

Behind it all is darkness,
a vaulted corridor
shut tight.

When chancing on these fragments
of your past, jewels come
into their own
            like stone, hewn
from many makers.

And in the musty dim of forgotten
piles of books, where dancing statues
mourn the silence,
a mirror held you in its truth
of ‘East’ and ‘West’:

you could not see yourself
without the other.


As the juniper juice
loosens her gob,
language sinks its anchor,
speaks you into being
with a three-thousand-year-old

The womb of words from Latin
to the Celts
lives in your bibi’s secret place,
home from home.

It must have been painful
when she left.

Her taste sticks
to your mouth still,
its long, cool caress fogs up
the glass with every swill.


Nalini Paul

bibi – the British man’s Indian female companion during the Raj