"‘It was easy becoming a voyeur.'
Saleem Peeradina, poet, artist, teacher—and compulsive people-watcher—gets extraordinary views of neighbourhood life from the twelve windows of his Versova Road house. From the age of four he has been drawn into the thrills of a voyeuristic life, a passion that was nurtured in his young adulthood by his interest in poetry and painting. In The Ocean in My Yard he gives us rare and exclusive pictures of the dramas he witnessed almost unobserved, sketching the interior landscape of hearts and heads.
In lyrical prose interspersed with his own poems, Peeradina brings to life the vitality, as well as the predictability, of suburban Bombay of the 1950s and 1960s, where cycling down narrow lanes with school buddies, or peering into a film studio to catch a glimpse of a movie star, or having a ball of shaved ice was heaven itself. All of this is offset, of course, by run-over animals rotting at the neighbouring garbage dump. With passion, tenderness and sometimes detachment, he lucidly captures the experience of growing up Muslim in a large joint family: the adoring grandparents who light up his life all too briefly, the trio of eccentric uncles who confer on him the most favoured status, a difficult doctor-father against whose strong will he pitches his own, and a self-effacing mother whom he begins to appreciate only late in life. He also exposes religious and class issues and reveals how, even as a boy, he stood up against the ingrained sexism of Indian society.
As Saleem candidly serves up anecdotes of his sexual awakening—massaging his aunt's body to ease the tension after a long day in the kitchen—and trips to Anchor Cabins where his uncle conducted photography sessions that were to inspire his own nude paintings, we realize all too well how easy it is to become a voyeur, and how easy to fall under Peeradina's spell."