Book lovers will always remember him for classics like “Train to Pakistan”, “I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale” and “Delhi – A Novel”. One of India’s best-known authors and journalists, Khushwant Singh elevated English writing in India with uninhibited wit and humour and was equally facile with his pen on serious issues like partition. He kept on writing virtually till the end and at 95, he wrote the novel “The Sunset Club”. Here’s a tribute to the Vintage Sardarji.
Khushwant Singh: facts and his fictions – Excepts from IBN Live
– Khushwant Singh was born on 2 February 1915 was a novelist and journalist.
– An Indo-Anglian novelist, Singh was best-known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry. His comparisons of social and behavioral characteristics of Westerners and Indians are laced with acid wit. He served as editor of several literary and news magazines, as well as two broadsheet newspapers, through the 1970s and 1980s. He was a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.
– Singh was born in Hadali District Khushab, Punjab (which now lies in Pakistan), in a Sikh family. His father, Sir Sobha Singh (builder), was a prominent builder in Lutyens’ Delhi. His uncle Sardar Ujjal Singh (1895-1983) was Ex. Governor of Punjab and Tamil Nadu.
Khushwant Singh: facts and his fictions
An Indo-Anglian novelist, Singh was best-known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry.
– He was educated at Modern School, New Delhi, Government College, Lahore, St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and King’s College, London, before reading for the Bar at the Inner Temple.
– Singh edited ‘Yojana’, an Indian government journal, The Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly, and two major Indian newspapers, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times. During his tenure, The Illustrated Weekly became India’s pre-eminent newsweekly, with its circulation raising from 65,000 to 4,00,000. After working for nine years in the weekly, on 25 July 1978, a week before he was to retire, the management asked Singh to leave “with immediate effect”. The new editor was installed the same day. After Singh’s departure, the weekly suffered a huge drop in readership.
– From 1980 through 1986, Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 for service to his country. In 1984, he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. In 2007, the Indian government awarded Khushwant Singh the Padma Vibhushan.
– Singh was said to wake up at 4 am each day and write his columns by hand. His works range from political commentary and contemporary satire to outstanding translations of Sikh religious texts and Urdu poetry.
– As a public figure, Singh was accused of favouring the ruling Congress party, especially during the reign of Indira Gandhi. He was derisively termed as an Establishment Liberal. Singh’s faith in the Indian political system, however, was shaken by events such as anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination, in which major Congress politicians are alleged to be involved. But he remained resolutely positive on the promise of Indian democracy and worked via Citizen’s Justice Committee floated by HS Phoolka who is a senior advocate of Delhi High Court.
– He was married to Kawal Malik and is survived by a son, named Rahul Singh, and a daughter, named Mala. Actress Amrita Singh is the daughter of his brother Daljit Singh and Rukhsana Sultana. He stayed in “Sujan Singh Park”, near Khan Market New Delhi, Delhi’s first apartment complex, built by his father in 1945, and named after his grandfather.
Honours and awards
- Rockfeller Grant,1966
- Padma Bhushan, Government of India (1974)(He returned the decoration in 1984 in protest against the Union government’s siege of the Golden Temple, Amritsar)
- Honest Man of the Year, Sulabh International (2000)
- Punjab Rattan Award, The Government of Punjab (2006)
- Padma Vibhushan, Government of India (2007)
- Sahitya academy fellowship award by Sahitya academy of India (2010)
- ‘All-India Minorities Forum Annual Fellowship Award’ by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav (2012)
- The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, 1950
- The History of Sikhs, 1953
- Train to Pakistan, 1956
- The Voice of God and Other Stories, 1957
- I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, 1959
- The Sikhs Today, 1959
- The Fall of the Kingdom of the Punjab, 1962
- A History of the Sikhs, 1963
- Ranjit Singh: The Maharajah of the Punjab, 1963
- Ghadar 1915: India’s first armed revolution, 1966
- A History of the Sikhs, 1966 (2nd edition)
- A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, 1967
- Black Jasmine, 1971
- Tragedy of Punjab, 1984
- Delhi: A Novel, 1990
- Sex, Scotch and Scholarship: Selected Writings, 1992
- Not a Nice Man to Know: The Best of Khushwant Singh, 1993
- We Indians, 1993
- Women and Men in My Life, 1995
- Uncertain Liaisons; Sex, Strife and Togetherness in Urban India, 1995
- Declaring Love in Four Languages, by Khushwant Singh and Sharda Kaushik, 1997
- The Company of Women, 1999
- Truth, Love and a Little Malice (an autobiography), 2002
- With Malice towards One and All
- The End of India, 2003
- Burial at the Sea, 2004
- Paradise and Other Stories, 2004
- A History of the Sikhs: 1469-1838, 2004
- Death at My Doorstep, 2005
- A History of the Sikhs: 1839-2004, 2005
- The Illustrated History of the Sikhs, 2006
- Why I Supported the Emergency: Essays and Profiles, 2009
- The Sunset Club, 2010
- Agnostic Khushwant Singh, There is no GOD, 2012
- The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous, 2013 (Co-authored with Humra Qureshi)
Short story collections
- The Voice of God and Other Stories. Bombay, Jaico, 1957.
- A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories. New Delhi, Hind, 1967.
- Black Jasmine. Bombay, Jaico, 1971
- The Collected Stories. N.p., Ravi Dayal, 1989.
- The Portrait of a Lady
- The Strain
- Success Mantra
- A Love Affair In London