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Ode to Saleem Kidwai: Co-editor of Anthology on Writings About Same-sex Love in Indian literature

Ode to Saleem Kidwai: Co-editor of Anthology on Writings About Same-sex Love in Indian literature

  • Kidwai, described by the Washington Post as a scion of a prominent Muslim family, who became an eminence in India's LGBTQ community with the publication of “Same-Sex Love in India,” died Aug. 30 in Lucknow, India. He was 70.

The context for the poem is: while we were working on “Same-Sex Love in India,” we drove up to the Himalayas with some friends, and carried with us books that we were reading for our research (I took several volumes of the complete Mahabharata). We were also both coming out of difficult break-ups.

Binsar, 1997

For Saleem Kidwai

A tiny room on top of the world.
The lights went out at nine, dropped us cold
Into darker darkness than I’d known.
Under blankets dense as lead we lay,
Side by side, exchanging notes. By day
We read the tomes lugged up from Delhi.
Sun reddened the top of your head; the tree
You’d chosen was too small. At zero point
We both were then, remember? New to me
It was, this dialect of inwardness
We had begun to intimate, impress
Upon each other. Distant, in the fog,
Nanda and Sunanda, Goddesses,
Assumed the cloudy lineaments of joy.

I also dedicated two of my books to him:

“Gandhi’s Tiger and Sita’s Smile: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Culture,” 2005
For Saleem Kidwai — ‘they have seemed to be together, though absent; shook hands, as over a void; and embraced, as it were from the ends of opposed winds.

See Also

“Gender, Sex and the City: Urdu Rekhti Poetry in India 1780-1870,” 2012
For Saleem Kidwai : humdil, humraaz, humdastaan. (the meaning of the Urdu words: sharer of the heart, sharer of secrets, and teller of a shared story)

Ruth Vanita is a Professor of Literature at the University of Montana and the co-editor with Kidwai of the 2000 volume “Same-Sex Love in India: Readings From Literature and History.”

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