Khushwant Singh, one of India’s prominent writers and journalists passed away at the age of 99 at his Delhi residence. He is survived by his daughter Mala and son Rahul. The cremation took place at the Lodhi Crematorium on 4pm and was attended by stalwart politicians such as LK Advani and Farooq Abdullah.
He was best known for his love for poetry, his humour and acerbic secularism. Born in Hadali, Pakistan, on February 2nd in 1915, some of his books those have gone on to become classics are “Delhi”, “Train to Pakistan” and “I shall not hear the Nightingale”. By profession, he was a lawyer who later turned diplomat and author. His autobiography, entitled “Truth, Love and a Little Malice” was published by Penguin Books in 2002. He was a member of the parliament from 1980 to 1986.
He had been the editor of several news and literary magazines such as the Hindustan Times, the National Herald and the Illustrated Weekly of India through the 70s and 80s. The circulations of the Illustrated Weekly went up by 7 times to 400,000 under his editorial guidance. The readership went up mostly among Indians well-versed in English. It had graphics, cartoons and photographs that were similar to the quality published in The Sun.
He was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 2007 by the Government of India. Prior to the Padma Vibhushan, he was conferred the Padma Bhushan which he had returned in protest of the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. He had also sided with Sanjay Gandhi at the time of the emergency.
He was one of the few writers who have seen India go through the rule of the British, the early era of Independence, the various wars that the country has fought with its neighbours such as China and Pakistan, the period of Emergency under Indira Gandhi and then a steady growth of the Indian economy post globalization. His love for his community is well reflected through his book “History of the Sikhs” published in 1963 by the OUP. Despite being dedicated to his community, his style of writing is far removed from flattery and nationalistic feelings. His write up is quite critical and analytical which put the book in a whirlpool of its own.
His writing style in English was mostly topical and lacked the timelessness of R.K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends or BhishamSahni’sTamas. However, his Urdu poetry reflects his eloquence and love for this style of writing. His tongue-in-cheek humour and ability to criticize situations, decisions and incidents through sugar coated words and jokes made him much loved among his readers.
He was a frequent writer of the column “With Malice to One and All”, where he addressed almost all issues under the sun. From upcoming authors, musicians to departing politicians, he spared none. Unfortunately, he stopped writing the column two years ago. It was perhaps his most popular bit of writing.
The demise of Khushwant Singh marks the end of a statesman who dared to critique the on-goings of the Indian political scenario behind a façade of benignity. To buy books authored by him, log in to online websites.