In 1990, on a Delhi winter night, as a queen swirled to "Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera...", on a well designed terrace flat in old Delhi, the temperature was soaring.
The host got me a drink and I was suddenly introduced to a calm gentleman, in a white kurta pyjama with a woolen jacket drinking quietly in a corner. He was Saleem Kidwai.Initially reserved, he measured his words and was very careful of what he spoke. But as the evening progressed he thawed, we spoke at length about various things, including how we should progress with the gay movement. That night a silent but strong bond was created. After that whenever we met it was like old friends meeting. I had never had to be on my guard with him. Our meetings were very few and spread over three decades, but the mark he made on me was indelible.
He was so knowledgeable, well read, calm and insightful. Never made an attempt to give 'gyaan', yet made so much sense, whenever he spoke. He was an 'out and proud' activist, at a time when not many in Indian academia were out.
An author, a historian, a researcher, a teacher, and above all, as the cliche goes - a friend, philosopher and guide. Always shy of media and people's attention. We walked together during the Lucknow Pride Parade in 2019. He invited me home for dinner and spoke about how he misses talking to people. The last time we shared a platform was when I was presenting him the Likho Trailblazer Award, during the Silver Jubilee celebration of The Humsafar Trust. What a honour it was for me!
Saleem's contribution to the gay movement of India remains significant and remarkable. Lucknow will never be the same again without him.
Rest in peace Saleem Bhai. Aapki kami hamesha mehsoos hogi.