Veteran Journalist, Author and Diplomat, Khushwant Singh Bids Farewell!
by Elizabeth Menon

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Veteran Journalist, Author and Diplomat, Khushwant Singh Bids Farewell!

Literary legend Khushwant Singh died on Thursday aged 99 years and was cremated at Lodhi Crematorium in Delhi. He was an Internationally renowned Writer, Journalist, Columnist, Novelist, Historian, Diplomat and of course, a Lawyer, but his satirical approach to contemporary issues, political or social, in his columns eclipsed him on to a different plane, lasting more than six decades! He also worked as a public relations officer at the Indian high commission in London. There was a time when the name 'Khushwant Singh' was synonym to 'The Illustrated Weekly of India' and I remember waiting eagerly to read the articles, jokes, satire, etc, written by the enigmatic Journalist! It is well documented that the circulation of the Weekly went up sevenfold to 400,000, soon after Khushwant Singh started writing for the magazine in 1979! His writing was like an explosion and he didn't have the word 'Fear' in his dictionary. He was a member of Rajyasabha from 1980-1986, and Editor of several Magazines and Broadsheet newspapers – The Illustrated Weekly of India, Yojana (Editor and Founder), National Herald, Hindustan Times, to mention a few! He has written around 100 books, including Urdu poetry and translation of books on Sikh religion – he is known for his secularism, wonderful sense of humour and love of poetry, especially Urdu Poetry! The Nation honoured him with the 'Padmabhusan' in 1974, but he returned it in 1984 following the siege on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, but he accepted the 'Padmavibhusan' in 2007!

He studied at St Stephen's College in Delhi, King's College in London and then went on to study Law at the 'Inner Temple' in London. His life as a Lawyer didn't last long and he exploded into Journalism and his columns changed the face of Journalism in India and people stopped to take notice – 'With Malice to One and All' was his most famous column that he stopped doing two years ago, to the disappointment of his ardent followers! His first book, 'Train to Pakistan' that he wrote more than five decades ago is still talked about and discussed at literary meetings. 'Death at My Doorstep (Obituaries), The Portrait of a Lady ( short stories), Sunset Club, The Company of Women, Delhi, A history of the Sikhs, I shall not hear the Nightingale, 'Truth, Love and a Little Malice' (Autobiography), Women and Men in my Life, and many other books followed, ending with 'The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous' in 2013, at the age of 98! But he continued to write and sadly he succumbed to an abrupt cardiac arrest this morning.

Khushwant Singh should be remembered as a Journalist first and then a Writer, Diplomat, Lawyer, etc, but I am sure he would always be thought of as the 'Fearless Journalist' who had a wonderful sense of humour. He has written his own epitaph years ago in his book, 'Death at My Doorstep': “Here lies One who spared neither man nor God /waste not your tears on him, he was a sod / writing nasty things as great fun / Thank the Lord he is dead, the son of a gun!”: so, let us celebrate the fearless fruitful life with a smile! He is survived by a son, Rahul and a daughter, Mala.

May his soul rest in Peace!

© E Menon



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