India Bids Adieu To Khushwant Singh
“When you have counted eighty years and more, Time and Fate will batter at your door. But if you should survive to be a hundred, Your life will be death to the very core.”
― Khushwant Singh
In Khushwant Singh, India has lost of one of the best storytellers that the country has ever seen. Known for his caustic wit and liberal political views, Mr. Singh has given the Indian writings in English the much-needed direction. He, unlike other Indian authors, didn’t look to the west for the plot of his novels, but portrayed his own nation to the world in the most beautiful way possible.
Here are some of his best works, which made the entire world go gaga over him:
Delhi: A Novel
An unusual novel that offers a perfect combination of fiction and history, Delhi: A Novel is the story of the city of Delhi from the medieval to the modern times. With two narratives running simultaneously, this novel accounts the upheaval of partition and the murder of thousands of Sikhs on the streets of Delhi in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. It’s an excellent read for readers interested not only in the history of Delhi, but of the whole Indian subcontinent.
Train To Pakistan
Being a straightforward writer, Mr. Singh could always be counted upon for presenting an honest opinion in his books. And Train To Pakistan is very much a testimony of this fact. Published in the year 1956, this book recounts the gloomy tale of a fictional village Mano Majra, located on the Indo-Pak border. It beautifully narrates the gloomy events leading up to “Partition” and the consequent transformation of peace loving Sikhs and Muslims of the village into hate gushing, blood thirsty violent individuals. The cold-blooded reality and the massacre that followed is what make for the story of Train To Pakistan.
I Shall Not Hear The Nightingale
Mr. Singh’s second gift to literature, I Shall Not Hear The Nightingale, is the story of love, pride, passion, religion, culture and all the things that represent India and Indians. Maybe not one of his finest works, in comparison to Train To Pakistan, this novel represents the true nature of our country.
The Portrait of A Lady: Collected Stories
Mr. Singh started his writing career with a short story. And as his critics would say, “A Khushwant Singh short story is not flamboyant but modest, restrained, well crafted. Perhaps his greatest gift is a wonderful particularity of description.”
The Portrait of A Lady contains all the ironic, touching and erotic stories that Mr. Singh wrote throughout his writing career. Reliving his past through some of the stories in this collection, the writer leaves the readers in an intoxicated trance.
Truth, Love And A Little Malice: An Autobiography
This is Mr. Singh’s straightforward and honest autobiography, which is written in a sequential manner. Having lived through the Indian history as it was being written Mr. Singh in Truth, Love and a Little Malice narrates first-hand stories of Independence, India-Pakistan partition, the Emergency and Indira Gandhi’s Operation Bluestar.
Apart from being one of the most popular prose writers of India, Khushwant Singh wrote a full body of essays. Having a nation-wide understanding of social problems his writings depict with force, brilliance and passion the problems that distress an Indian mind. Mr. Singh’s work stresses on the specifications of a social problem giving the readers a sense of direction of how and where to advance. In that sense, Khushwant Singh was no less than an iconoclast who through his non-fictional work held a mirror to the monstrosities of Indian life—sex, humor, religion, corruption and poverty.
In his essay, “Sex in Indian Life,” in the Book of Unforgettable Women, Mr. Singh commented on the pattern of heterosexual relationships that exist in our country. And in another essay, “Poverty in Indian Life,” he examines why poverty is so prevalent in India. He was of the idea that while there has been an increase in the literacy rates, decline in the number of famines and increase in the production of food grains since independence, it is these increasing numbers that refute our country’s progress. That’s because the government isn’t able to keep up with this pace which is why there is a lack of schools, hospitals, transport, etc.
In addition to the aforementioned works Mr. Singh wrote a number of fiction and non-fictional books on Sikhism as a religion and culture, politics and Urdu poetry. Not to forget that there was another side to him. Nominated to the government under late Indira Gandhi, Mr. Singh served as a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986.
What made him even more popular was his theory of love. He urged his fans to throw love out of the window and said that two individuals are not bound by love but by lust. He always said that the great scientists haven’t invented a condom for his pen. But frankly nobody could ever make one for his free spirit, because he was a man who fed on controversies.
“I have also come to the sad conclusion that I have always been a bit of a lecher. From the tender age of four right to the present when I have completed 97, it has been lechery that has been uppermost in my mind. I have never been able to conform to the Indian ideal of regarding women as my mothers, sisters or daughters. Whatever their age, to me they were, and are, objects of lust,” he wrote in his last book, Khushwantnama: The Lessons of My Life, which was released in the year 2013.
About death he wrote in his essay, “Prepare for Death While Alive”:
”All I hope is that when death comes to me, it comes swiftly, without much pain; like fading away in sound slumber. Till that time I will strive to live as full a life as I did in my younger days.
One should prepare oneself to die like a man; no moaning, groaning or crying for reprieve. Allama Iqbal put it beautifully: Nishan-e-mard-e-Momin ba to goyam? Choon margaayad, tabassum bar lab-e-ost (You ask me for signs of a man of faith? When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips).”
On this day, all we can hope is that God granted him this wish.
What is your favourite Khushwant Singh book? Write your opinion in the comment box below.
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