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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Goodbye Khushwant Singh, our favourite Sardarji

Tanya Talwar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 20, 2014
First Published: 23:19 IST(20/3/2014) | Last Updated: 23:34 IST(20/3/2014)

So, how do you write an obituary for a person you have never met, read voraciously and have admired from a distance?

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As I was sitting with my broken-legged friend, who recently met with an accident, another friend conveyed "Khushwant Singh is dead". And the conversation began…

It's not every day that a grand old journalist finds his way into the conversations of the so-called journalists of today. We are the copy-paste, Google-dependent generation. But here is this man, who has been writing since I ever knew of journalism; his wit saved in a collection of my favourite columns of With Malice Towards One and All and his Train to Pakistan, which made me read partition literature like never before.

The grand old man of Indian journalism may have once walked down the same corridors of Hindustan Times and has made many shuffle in their comfortable sofas as he would use "no condom on his pen".

Born into a well-off family, he initially practised law in Lahore. But partition was the trigger for him to take up the pen and ditch the rest. And he wrote, he wrote till death, penning his last books, Sunset Club and Absolute Khushwant and Khushwantnama: The Lessons of My Life when he was well past 95. This was when he was trying hard to "learn to do nothing".

Ask women and they will have stories to tell about this man, caricatured by late Mario Miranda who pictured him in a light bulb surrounded by books, 'girlie' magazines and a bottle of liquor.

Despite all the sex that 'clouded' this man's mind, Khushwant's only woman was his wife, Kanval, who he lost to Alzheimer's and as author Sadia Dehlvi puts it, "If you ask me about the women in author Khushwant Singh's life, I would say I am the only one. That's how special he makes all those around him feel. Women are drawn to him because he doubles up as confidante, friend, father and mentor."

The man has delighted generations with his writing and though he may have been blamed for taking political sides, he has made the same people twitch as he unapologetically took many a stand.

When I joined Hindustan Times, I heard from people who edited his columns that the man used a typewriter and proof-read his articles before sending them in. He enjoyed his scotch on evenings, but never pretended to be a great connoisseur of it, he read and wrote every day, was a well-known agnostic, but read the holy books before deciding to keep them at bay.

And today, as he passed away just like he wished — "swiftly, without much pain, like fading away in sound slumber" — he left a lesson for the ones who loathe journalism and think of writing as a means of imparting clouded opinions. 

Writing can make generations read, masses laugh on themselves for being a Sardar, bring out the dirty old minds of men on paper, let your satire unfold the worst from politics and bring the Prime Minister to pay you a last goodbye.

To a life lived with no regrets and for sharing love with one and all, thanks Khushwant Singh for being my favourite Sardarji.


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