Aisa kahan se laye ke tujhsa kahen jise... He was an icon of our age. His absence is a void nobody can fill. There is and will be nobody like him. He taught us how to celebrate life, how to live every moment of life.
I met Khushwant Singh about 30-35 years ago. I was always welcome at his home. He was like family. Sujan Singh Park will never be the same again. In him we always had an anchor and today he has left us. Life, in that way, has changed.
I have been very privileged to have met and been associated with him. I came from Bihar and I didn't know anybody in Delhi at that time. I met him and through him I met everybody else who I know today. He touched my life in a big way and I owe him a great deal for what I am today. I learnt so much from him. Unke kadmon mein baith ke itna kuch seehka… from English poetry to Urdu poetry, appreciation, friendship. He was a patron of our Jashn-e-Bahar Trust that works to popularise Urdu language.
His column 'With Malice towards one and all' shaped the writing of generations. But, actually he had no malice towards anyone, forgave easily and loved everybody. In his last column published in February, he had mentioned about my new docudrama series 'Dastan-e-Urdu'.
We had recently celebrated his 99th birthday (February 2). He asked me, "Mera present kitthe?" I remembered that he had always been a stickler for time, for punctuality.
I think years of meeting deadlines must have inculcated this. I gave him a digital watch. The moment he saw it he said, "This was perfect. This is what I wanted".
I used to meet him off and on, so in a lighter vein he added, "I'm now 99. So you have to drop in more often". His spirits were always high. He was very fond of Urdu poetry. Ghalib was his favourite poet and he often quoted him. Of late, he would often recite this sheir: Rau mein hai raksh-e-umr, kahaan dekhiye thamein/ Na haath bag pe hai, na paa hai raqaab mein
Even though it is a very sad moment for all of us, I can say that he went peacefully, about noon.
He had done his crosswords in the morning. The last book on his table was Fakir Aijazuddin's The resourceful Fakirs.
"Jane wale chale gaye duniya ki basti chhodkar/ Rone wale ek roz kya umr bhar roya karen."
Knowing him, I am sure he would have liked to go in the evening with his drink in his hand.
He is gone. But he lives in our hearts. Like me, everyone who had known him feels blessed that we got his affection and love.
Kaamna Prasad is an Urdu language activist who was closely associated with Khushwant Singh for more than three decades. (As told to Viju Cherian)