This morning I woke up to hear that Saleem Kidwai is no more.
I have vivid memories of our last meeting at the LIKHO Awards and 25th Anniversary of Humsafar Trust in December 2019. We had met after almost five years but it was as if nothing was lost between us. We started from where we had left in our last meeting. He had gone a little fragile, not in the best of his health but yet his spirit remained unchallenged. Thank you Saleem bhai for being with us in that moment of Pride.
Saleem bhai defined a true Gentleman. Not just his personality, his attire, his soft-spoken words but more than that his attitude towards life and people and the path that he had chosen for himself and followed it through his lifetime.
I remember once things had gotten very bad in the LGBTQ+ community and a lot of dirt was being flung around. He was very upset with the way things were shaping in the movement. I had spoken to him at the time and he told me “Remember, whatever the circumstances, however bad the situation, never stop being civil to people”. Saleem bhai my teacher taught me that ugly confrontations will not yield positive results but dialogue and negotiation can help resolve many issues. This one mantra became a way forward for me and I continue to work on the learning that he gave me.
In 2006, I was in Lucknow and he had invited me to his house for dinner where I saw a poster of Pyaasi Shaam a 1969 film starring Sunil Dutt and Sharmila Tagore which no one saw. I was surprised to see the film's poster adorning the wall of the staircase of his house. I was surprised as that poster and its song “Yeh kaisa gam sajna” were my only memory of that film.
He told me that he loved the poster and had preserved it for years. That was beginning of a new dimension to our friendship. Our common love for Bollywood and books led to many more discussions. The book Same Sex love in India which he co-authored with Ruth Vanita is one of the most powerful documents of LGBTQ+ representation in Indian culture.
I am sure Saleem bhai will continue to look upon us smiling from his new home and keep guiding the younger generation in their struggle for LGBTQ+ rights.
You will be missed Saleem bhai.