Khushwant Singh 

Khushwant Singh is dead. He died on March 20, 2014 in New Delhi. I knew him for his column “With Malice Towards One and All” in the Hindustan Times that I used to read than anything else. I think it was widely read and popular for its humor than any literary or any other value. What I feel is that it was those rude and close to ‘four letter’ words which made that column so popular that it became an instant recognition for the great writer. For instance, read ‘Khushwant Singh's Big Fat Joke Book’ a collection of as they call it ‘his rib-tickling jokes’ is nothing but cheap one liners or ‘grand humor’ is nothing but crap, collection of cheap jokes. But as it came from a writer like Khushwant Singh so it would sell but the fact remains, there is no humor or joke in that book but rubbish, good for no one. Look at his another book “Khushwant Singh's Big Book of Malice”, they say it contains truth, love and little malice but what I found is all trash, whiskey and lot of vulgarity. 

To be frank, I did not like his for the sexist and derogatory writing against the women. In fact, he treated women as mere use and throw objects, something associated with male lust but as someone quoted him as a ‘celebrated lecher’. He could be best described as somewhere between a high profile flirt and a pervert. If you ask me, a lecher is bit of both, slightly better than a pervert and a little more blunt or maybe a bit lesser deceptively sensitive than a flirt. 

That is how I rate the big writer despite all his other work including Train to Pakistan and History of Sikhs, (in two parts) that he presented and displayed the social, political and religious side of the people of Punjab. If you happen to read those books, his writing is full of music of the Kirtan and poetry of Guru Nanak Dev, the music of Punjab. The fact remains that he was a true Punjabi and he displayed it in his work. He also displayed his temperament for what happened with Sikhs in 1984 in no uncertain manner, despite the fact that he was a member of the Congress party. 

He was close to an atheist 

He was a self-declared atheist who had written a number of articles based on religion. Read his book - AGNOSTIC KHUSHWANT -There Is No God, co-authored with Ashok Chopra, that will describe him more clearly. I agree we are passing through a super charged communal period especially due to going on elections. In his article “The need for a new religion- Without a God” he describes his rare visit to a Gurudwara a Sikh temple where he made it a point of watching people ‘making obeisance’ that is used in sense of deferential respect before ‘Guru Granth Saheb’, incidentally there is no book holier for Sikhs than this one. He said, “he was watching and noticing the people, the one who took longer time rubbing their noses in front of the book were bigger corrupts, bigger criminals and bigger liars who had more to beg for forgiveness. So much for his love and faith for the religion. Oh yes, he was considered as ‘King of sleaze’, that virtually means shabby, dirty, and vulgar, often the word is associated with prostitutes, the way he talked and described himself often sounded like he was one.

His other side 

If we remember him for what I have written above, that will probably do no justice to this grandpa of journalism, especially in this age when the journalism has come down to so very low standard with all the paid stories floating around, rumormongers at work and every thing looks so doubtful. Khushwant Singh undoubtedly had an Illustrated career as the Founder-Editor of Yojna, chief editor of New Delhi, editor of Illustrated weekly and the editor of Hindustan Times. 


His brief introduction

Khushwant sing was born on February 2, 1915 in Hadali, that place is now in Pakistani Punjab and he went to Oxford. He was a practicing lawyer and a Padma Bhushan almost 40 years ago, which he returned in 1984 in protest of operation ‘Bluestar’ that took place in Golden Temple 10 years later in 1984, incidentally he was a member of upper house during that time. He also was a consulting editor of Penguin India and awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2007. Despite all his dark humor and derogatory writing about women including writers of repute with whom he came in contact and writes so intimately, he had a brighter side also. 

If any of you have read his book ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ containing short stories the main story it has is about his grandmother, (incidentally she raised him). The words he used to describe her sweet and tender, full of love and of highest affection for a caring grandma. For instance – “Her face was crisscross of wrinkles running from everywhere to everywhere”. He further describes her, “No, we were certain she had always been as we had known her. Old, so terribly old that she could not have grown older, and had stayed at the same age for twenty years” that was so touching and loving and he could not be more affectionate about his granny when he wrote, “She could never have been pretty; but she was always beautiful..” great expressions.

Death was one of the subjects he often included in his work. He even included it in his real life by publishing about his own death ‘Posthumous’, he imagined everything right from including a funeral procession. RIP- Khushwant, he published it just for the fun this obituary 'posthumous' was published a little over 31 years before his actual death in the Sunday Observer dated February 13, 1983. He wanted to see what happens after his death or how would people react to this news. In fact, he was expecting all his friends and relatives gathered at his gate but to his disappointment, very few people turned up.

That was not the case though in his real life when he left this world at the age of 99, in New Delhi. Even I, one of the most vociferous of his critics was saddened to read about his death. Khushwant Singh was surrounded by contradictions almost at every point, at every stage of his life. I can understand he was ever so willing to pose that he was a drunken great who had tons of affairs with reputed ladies. He was one of the most laborious and punctual men the media will ever know. He was self-declared follower of agnosticism but still enjoyed religious kirtan. In fact he wanted to see, appreciate, believe and write about simplicity of religion and not the way it existed. He was against the bad practices the religion carried with it due to the rituals and bad habits of so-called religious gurus and god-men spread allover in the society. 


I wish to conclude this post by quoting himself that he thought described him best -

Here lies one who spread  

neither man nor God

Waste no tears on him,

He was a sod

Writing nasty thing he regarded as

Great fun

Thanks the Lord he is dead,

This son of gun

(His own tribute to himself)

Great words Khushwant Singh; these were probably the rudest of them all. Thank you so much.

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