Introduction by Salil Tripathi
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Widely known as a poet, with six books of poetry, and editor of the famous anthology Contemporary Indian Poetry in English: An Assessment and Selection (1972), Saleem Peeradina, has over the years, written a fair amount of literary journalism in a culturally thriving period in post-Independence India—a lively environment of theatre in four languages, cinema, art, literature, music, and the beginnings of Doordarshan.
The writings in this compilation of essays, articles, reviews and interviews, which date back to the late sixties and continue until 2020, show the breadth of Peeradina’s interests, passions and perspectives on subjects as diverse as education, literature, cinema, creative writing, travel, the lives of women in the real world and in books and movies, art, religion, urban decay, cultural conflict, and more.
His critique of social and moral issues is not only evident in his poems but is an integral part of all his writing. Whether he is comparing Indian and American behavioural norms or cities that are inviting and those that are forbidding, reflecting on what makes a poem good, exposing the hypocrisy that religion breeds, visiting a taverna in Athens, attending a reading in Madurai, or reporting on a World Poetry Festival in Bhopal, he builds his essays with a keen eye on detail and with warmth and empathy going to the heart of things.
Peeradina speaks out of a double consciousness—a westernized Indian, a reluctant American, a stubbornly insistent world citizen, a poet-teacher, and a participant-observer: ‘I am simultaneously witness and scribe,’ he writes. ‘I am never off-duty.’
The book comes with an added element: Peeradina’s paintings and pen-and-ink sketches of a fishing village in Mumbai as he saw it, circa 1960, bringing to the literary map the now bustling Andheri–Versova from a quieter, more peaceful time.