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When Khushwant was target of Krishna Menon's ire

india Updated: Mar 21, 2014 02:09 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
VK Krishna Menon

A little known aspect of Khushwant Singh's life is his brief tenure as the information officer in India House in London soon after independence in 1948, when the tempestuous VK Krishna Menon was the high commissioner.

Singh, who studied at King's College before independence, returned to London in 1948 to take up the post at India House under Sudhir Ghosh, who was the public relations officer. Menon and Ghosh were not on the best of terms and Singh was often caught in the crossfire.

Ghosh dragged his feet when Singh asked him to introduce him to Menon, and when the two met with Ghosh, Singh writes that Menon "barked", saying: "Sardar, haven't they taught you any manners in India? You have been here four days and haven't had the courtesy to call on me. I am the high commissioner, you know!"

Singh writes in his autobiography published in 2002: "I returned to my cubicle very shaken up. No one had spoken to me the way Menon had done and without reason whatsoever. I was determined not to put up with it."

Later in the day at a tea party in India House, Menon went up to Singh, put his arm around his shoulders and said: "Sorry for ticking you off this morning. I hope you had the sense to realise it was not meant for you...if you don't have that much common sense, you'll never do as an information officer."

Singh writes: "The fellow obviously meant to be friendly; it was Sudhir Ghosh he was gunning for. Menon had a convoluted mind. It did not take me long to get a hang of India House politics."

Singh was in London when Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi. He had a ticket bought a month earlier to see Mae West in Diamond Lil on the day.

He writes: "I was torn with conflict in my mind. Was it right to see the world's greatest sex symbol while Bapu lay dead in Delhi?"

He decided to go, "did not have any shame or sense of guilt when I saw the bosomy woman", but remarks later that "from the brochure I discovered Mae West was the same age as my mother".

From London, Singh was transferred to the Indian high commission in Canada.

It was during Krishna Menon and Singh's tenure that the Indian Journalists Association (IJA) got going. For the first time in its history, IJA on Wednesday elected its first woman president, Aditi Khanna.