Khushwant Singh’s Big Book of Malice

Khushwant Singh’s ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ is one of the most popular and widely read columns in India. Appearing in several newspapers, the author has aired his views openly and honestly to a vast readership on a number of issues. The book “Big Book of Malice” is a collection of writings that have appeared in the column. Sporting more than a hundred articles, the book is a veritable store house of thoughts and opinions from one of India’s most read authors.

Khushwant Singh says that he “loves to gossip and has an insatiable appetite for scandal”. In his long and winding tenure at the helm of a variety of magazines and newspapers, Singh has indulged in this pleasure of his and threw at his readers snippets of enlightening and interesting information that made good reading. The ‘Big Book of Malice’ is a warehouse of classic Khushwant pieces that are guaranteed to entertain us while providing ample food for thought.

The book deals with a plethora of topics- Religion, politics, nose-picking, wife-bashing, reservation, prohibition, cricket, astrology and a lot more. In his lucid and inimitable style, Singh has commentated on topics of national importance in a straight forward and candid style. Most importantly, he does not shirk from calling a spade a spade.

The articles have been predominantly written in the period between 1998 and 2000. The author mainly deals with the political scene of that time, one of the most turbulent ones in Indian politics. He has a refreshing take and outlook on the various politicians of national importance and is honest and candid in his opinions about them. He discuses the public action of various figures in politics and uses his acid wit to criticise the particularly deviant ones while accepting and praising the better of the class.

Particularly vehement in his criticism of corruption and the habit of taking bribes, he rips apart the practice and its practitioners in his characteristic style, taking them apart with some stinging humour. Khushwant Singh never feels the urge to sermonize and to impose his ideas and morals upon his readers. He is refreshingly objective and simply points out the flaws he perceives in the conduct of our leaders.

This aspect of Singh is especially visible in his articles on issues like the ban on smoking in public, prohibition and defacing of public monuments to name a few. He is open to legislation by politicians if they feel that such issues affect the population as a whole, but makes no bones to inform his readers that he considers the infringement upon his privacy by politicians a bit too much. Rather, he is all for civic responsibility to be enforced on such matters, as is done in many other countries.

Khushwant Singh describes himself as an agnostic but he follows the doings of many self proclaimed gurus and other god-men. He commentates on religion and their relevance in the modern times, especially of the variety perpetrated by the sadhus, gurus and television evangelists. Khushwant is extremely skeptical of the superstitious beliefs such people circulate among their faithful and often looks to bring out the truth behind the so-called miracles. He advocates a scientific mentality which he quite rightly believes to be essential to our nation’s progress. How will this mentality be cultivated, Singh asks, if we are pandering after such religious leaders who perpetrate superstitions and blind belief in rituals?

The book is a great read and is sure to entertain and enlighten one and all. As Khushwant Singh himself said “Good people can be crashing bores. Evil men who combine evil-doing with drunkenness, debauchery and making illicit money make more interesting characters because they pack their lives with action. They do what most of us would like to do but do not have the guts to do”.

Basil James


Image Source: []