Khushwant Singh

khushwant_singhThose were the days when I used to read and follow Ravi Belegere very feverishly. Every piece of article written by him in “Hi Bengaluru” and “O Manase” magazines,  every one of his books published, anything and everything associated with him never used to go missed. It is through his writings I got introduced to writers like Jogi, Chalam, Malagaonkar, Ramachandra Guha, Ruskin Bond, William Dalrymple and many more. Khushwant Singh was one such writer I came across and got glued to since then. With each passing book, I got more and more interested towards his writing and towards the man himself. I got greatly impressed by his witty narrative, strong vocabulary, bold and straight forward writing.

The first book I read was “The Company of Women” (translated by Ravi Belegere himself to Kannada). ‘Shocked’ will be a very decent expression if I use it to describe my immediate opinion. I got totally lost in the process of understanding how one can conceive an idea such as this and successfully present it in the form of a book. According to me, it demands a great deal of conviction to write such a book, publish and still expect to be looked upon normally in a sensitive country such as India. (Though this land produced Kamasutra, buying it openly from a bookshop is still a taboo among the majority). The fascination towards this work grew so strong that I ended up reading the original immediately to be sure that it was Kushwant’s creation and thus my obsession for the author has begun.

One of his other books, that fascinated me was a novel named “Delhi”. Many times I kept the book aside because of the personal stigma associated with the city and it took an effort to take up the reading to completion. One thing that kept me holding on to it was the tag “Kushwant Singh“. I was expecting that my feelings for the capital would be softened after reading this book, but what happened was pure addiction to the great writer. Delhi turned out to be one of the master piece novel in terms of literature, history and human emotions. Though there are critics terming few chapters as cheap sex, I totally disagree. I would call it a mirror of true human mind which is expressed boldly. Though both books have a bold approach towards sex, no one can righteously say its beyond a man’s thinking which are seldom concealed under hypocrisy.


Its been a few years since I am reading Kushwant Singh and the latest in the reading list is “The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous” – a collection of essays on iconic people he has met. Though it brings out most unexpected and honest episodes of many prominent people, for me, best part of the book is the Introduction where he writes a bit about himself – a true self testimony  –

“I have never been a very tactful person, I have never been discreet either. I am a voyeur and a gossip. I am also very opinionated. These are good qualities to have if your aim is to be a writer who is read.”

He goes on –

“A lot of what I have observed or found out is not flattering, but I never held back from making all of it public in my columns or books. If what is good in a person can be written about, why not the bad? I don’t do this out of malice, only out of my firm belief in being truthful.”

Couldn’t agree with him more on this –

“I have been criticized most severely for writing uncomplimentary things about dead people. No one seem to disagree with me that the person concerned was a windbag or a liar or a brute. Their objection is that I do not respect the dead. I find it hypocritical. Death does not wipe away the sins of nastiness or idiocy. A man should be judged in death as he would be in life. The truly good and the great are not diminished when their faults are exposed; on contrary, they earn greater respect for rising to admirable heights despite their human flaws.”

I was not saddened by the news of his death when it arrived 2 years ago, because I knew he lived a life of completeness all his 99 years and I know he would have felt complete in his death too. I believe that he lives through his work forever and continue to shock and inspire many generations to come. The person, like his work, is magnanimous and difficult to hold within words. Kushwant Singh is an experience one will go through once they start reading and understanding him.

Up next in the reading queue : Burial at Sea by Kushwant Singh.

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