Once upon a time there existed a magazine which was a “quarterly of inquiry, criticism and ideas” and fittingly enough called Quest. It had very clear-cut guidelines for its content: everything and anything published in the Quest had to have “some relevance to India. It was to be written by Indians for Indians” (p.xix).
It was because of these guidelines that Quest was able to publish highly original writing in English in the form of essays, opinions, book reviews, film reviews, critiques, stories, poems, memoirs, etc. The writers were a mix of the new and the established, academicians and journalists, politicians and poets — Rajni Kothari, Nirad Chaudhuri, Kiran Nagarkar, Ashis Nandy, Khushwant Singh, and Neela D’Souza, to name a few.
Published from Bombay, Quest was born in 1954 with Nissim Ezekiel as its first editor. After Ezekiel, A.S. Ayub and Dilip Chitre were the editors of Quest, and both of them stayed true to the founding vision of publishing writing relevant to India. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Quest died an untimely death with the imposition of the Emergency about 20 years later. In the decades that followed, Quest got relegated to the realm of nostalgic memories of people who were associated with it, or in wooden boxes stored in lofts and attics. Some forgot about it and some like me did not even know that Quest had once existed. Till recently, that is.