The scare of death makes us wish that we never die. The reason: The fear of the unknown and our belief in life hereafter and the consequences of the sins we have committed during our sojourn on this planet.
But for people like Khushwant Singh, India’s most controversial journalist, if not the most popular, the picture is the opposite. His latest book, The Freethinker’s Prayer Book, bares the old man, and it is an unrestrained commentary on life and its follow-up beyond this planet. Khushwant portrays his own rebellious nature and tries to convince the reader why it is always better to live a life of rationality and morality instead of a religious life of rituals and orthodoxy.
We, in our wintry days, have to face a myriad of scary problems, mental as well as physical. As Khushwant says, “Old age is not pleasant, it buggers up your life. I am not yet senile, but my memory, of which I was very proud, is failing.”
At 97, Khushwant makes us feel about his helplessness. Though not exactly bed-ridden, he has to seek help for many a thing in daily life which were once his great chores of pleasure.
Recently, Khushwant expressed his desire to bid adieu to life as he had nothing more work left to do. An agnostic all through his life even though he was born into an orthodox Sikh family in which religion and rituals were the paramount features of daily life, Khushwant never compromised with his convictions and principles of life.
For him, God is at best a concept. Even if He exists, as Khushwant says, He has failed to give us a peaceful and loving world. What kind of God is that? The point he makes is that one should have one’s own “personal religion”, an agnostic’s life codes based on the best of principles and values that can make life worth living for. And, that is what Khushwant gives us: Prayers, advice, songs, verses and words of inspiration that could make life cheerful and its journey purposeful.