A few days ago, I started to re read the autobiography of Khushwant Singh and Today I was reading its last chapter on his religious views( he believed in humanity as the highest religion) when a friend texted me that Khushwant Singh is no more. The news of Khushwant Singh moved me to jot down some words to pay tribute to an author that I admire immensely. I intend to write this as nothing but a celebration of the man who was a phenomenon in himself. Khushwant Singh has a special place in my life, I have never met him or known him personally but his biographical Book “Ranjeet Singh-Maharaja of Punjab” was responsible or accredited with me landing into the civil services since it was the last book I read before my interview and was the one I was incidentally questioned about. Before that I had never read any of his books, However this was a strange way in which I got this sort of a sacred liking for both Ranjeet Singh and the writer Khushwant Singh. That got me to have that awe for the Gurdwaras and the Sikh History. For the same easy understanding of which I read Khushwant Singh again. It was after some time that I brought myself to reading his other famous novel , Delhi. Being an ardent fan of authors like Manto, Ismat Chughtai and Rajinder Singh Bedi. i fell in love with his open , sarcastic and honest matter. He was a man that became an author in his mid thirties after a failed career as a lawyer and stints with the Government office finally discovered that writing was his passion and how iam glad that he did. I felt like he enjoyed surprising the readers with his frank manner which is obvious in collection of his columns. He could critically appraise others as well as himself and was unashamed of being himself in his writing.
The intention is not to count the books he wrote or to appreciate the length of 99 years he lived. I believe the kind of man I know him through his biography “Truth Love and a Little malice” he would not have wanted formal obituaries to celebrate his achievements. The point is to express the impact that an Indian Sikh author made on the mind of a Pakistan reader. Train to Pakistan, his all time famous Novel was the one that I read at a later stage , the 181 page novel in which he narrates to us the human aspect of the tragedy of Partition. He comes out as a man deeply moved by the humaneness of the situation. For readers across the border used to seeing partition through respectively colored narratives, he makes one come face to face the human side of breakup of a country into two. The novels like “The Company of women” went into the category that you first read for being Taboo then for its literary
In his autobiography, Love, Truth and a little malice he takes the reader through a journey with him to make one appreciate that all colours of life are magic and must be experienced. He writes that one must either write things that will be remembered for eternity or do deeds that could be remembered for eternity. He will surely be remembered. I have read his obituary of Amirta pretum and his passing profiles of the Gandhis however I have not read his recent book about portrayals of different personalities but I believe they must be as effective as the Ganjey Frishtey by Sadaat Hasan Manto considering his immense quality for satire.
He was always considered to be having a softer corner towards Pakistan. He was born in hadyali near Jehlum in Pakistan and studied in GC College Lahore and then practiced briefly as a lawyer in Lahore. He loved Lahore, and this was apparent from his writings. He belonged to the generation that knew living together and then had to go through the pain of partition and helped readers understand that borders are not meant for birds and free souls and tragedies involve humans not pieces of land.
Khushwant Singh was an era in himself with a life span spread over almost a century and what a use he made of his stay in this world by documenting how he felt the world. His demise is end of an era that made us connect more realistically to the past and the present. I wonder if he asked at the time of departure for his beloved glass of scotch like his mother and father before him..Literature transcends borders, religion and is etched in hearts so will be Khushwant Singh.