Thursday, March 20, 2014

Goodbye, Khushwant Singh

To be able to live a whole century and relish that life to the fullest is a rare blessing.  Khushwant Singh (2 Feb 1915 – 20 March 2014) is one of those blessed souls.  It would be preposterous to wish his soul eternal rest since he had no such beliefs.  Agnostic Khushwant: There is no God! is the title of one of his many books.

He was a prolific writer.  A popular writer, I should say.  I don’t consider him a great writer although he could have been one, as evidenced by his novel, A Train to Pakistan. He was also a very knowledgeable person as revealed by some of his books on Sikhism particularly.  But he chose to write for the masses.  Probably, his acute awareness of the absurdity of human existence prompted him to do that.

What appeals to me about Khushwant Singh is his sheer forthrightness.  With malice towards one and all, as the title of one of his newspaper columns proclaimed tongue-in-cheek.  It was not malice at all, however; it was plain honesty, utter lack of hypocrisy.  He had no pretensions.  He spoke out what he believed was the truth.  He refused to put on masks. 

In some ways he was like the gargoyles erected on old, grand buildings.  The gargoyles saved the building from the ravaging effects of rainwater.  Khushwant Singh grinned or even snarled at us like the gargoyles.  But we knew there was the typically humorous, fun-loving Sardarji smiling away behind those grins and snarls.  We also knew that the Sardarji had much more to offer than his quirky grins and risqué jokes.

“Not forever does the bulbul sing
In balmy shades of bowers,
Not forever lasts the spring
Nor ever blossom the flowers.
Not forever reigneth joy,
Sets the sun on days of bliss,
Friendships not forever last,
They know not life, who know not this.”  [A Train to Pakistan]


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Amrit. Khushwant perhaps deserves more!

  2. Replies
    1. He had certain unique and outstanding qualities.

  3. A Train to Pakistan remains one of the most haunting books I've read.

    1. The Partition-generated violence remains one of the most painful events in our history...

  4. Well ! if anything perfectly explains his work its the word "Paradoxical " - "He spoke out what he believed was the truth." I am not sure... he lived in interesting times and was interesting being ... RIP

    1. Well, Sachin, for Khushwant Singh a beautiful woman's smiling face would have been a greater truth than facts like water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen.

  5. A great tribute!
    The news really shocked me, as incidentally I'm midway through his autobiography these days:(

  6. Wish there were many like him, who would speak their mind and let the reader decide. We are not that lucky!

    1. No, indeed, Pattu... Most people want to ram their truths down our throats.

  7. I have read a couple of his books and some of his columns. Loved that he lived life on his own terms. A fitting obituary.

  8. He'll always be missed in fonts He wrote

  9. Hi there,

    Indeed, you have summed it up quite nicely here. His honesty was what distinguished him from his peers. Maybe he did it consciously to demarcate his differentiation.
    Great post, keep it coming. And yes, RIP Khushwant Singh.

    My Blog

  10. Well written Tribute to a legend.
    Noone can replace him for sure. Thanks for the post Sir.

  11. very well written
    RIP khushwant singh.

  12. A well rounded account of the great man who did not fear to express his true feelings & expose his earthy self.Thanks for posting


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