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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Best books of Khushwant Singh

Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustantimes.com  New Delhi, March 20, 2014
First Published: 15:48 IST(20/3/2014) | Last Updated: 16:58 IST(20/3/2014)

Counted amongst India's best authors and columnists, Khushwant Singh's joie de vivre, acid wit, courage and innate belief in human goodness were all reflected on the pages of his books. He dabbled in all forms - from brilliant historical anthologies to moving novels to politically incisive comments to translations and social commentary.

The prolific author wrote his last book at the age of 98. He co-wrote The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous with Humra Qureshi. Forced by failing eyesight and weak hands, he bid goodbye to his writing journey in Kasauli - the quaint hill town which played an important part in his literary journey.

As an era ends with the death of the grand old man of Indian literature, we look at some of his most important works - a difficult task given the immense body of work he leaves behind.

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Train to Pakistan (1953)
In the summer of 1947 when India is being partitioned, the hamlet of Mano Majra comes to terms with the new reality of India and Pakistan, Hindus and Muslims. The truth is brought home when a ghost train arrives in the isolated village, carrying bodies of hundreds of refugees. It is left to a boy and a girl, from different religions, to rise beyond this abyss of religious hatred.

I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale (1959)
Set in British India, Kushwant Singh's second novel is about a magistrate loyal to Britishers and his nationalist son who believes in using the gun to drive out the Britishers. The son is arrested and the father is given two choices - either the son betrays his comrades or get hanged.

A History of Sikhs (1963)
This two-volume book is considered the most comprehensive and authoritative book on the Sikhs.
Based on solid research, it is written in a way to be accessible to even the lay reader.

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The Company of Women (1999)
A work of fiction, Khushwant Singh wrote this novel at the age of 84. A comment on hypocrisy in the Indian society, the book tells the story of Mohan Kumar who believes "lust is the true foundation of love". The book was talked about for its unbridled sexuality and brazen views on man-woman relationship.

Truth, Love and a Little Malice (2002)
His image was not something Kushwant Singh was ever overtly concerned about. His autobiography which delves into his personal life and all those he met during the journey was controversial yet true to its title. Right from his first relationship to important political events he witnessed to his familial roots - all find a place here and are handled unabashedly and truthfully.

Why I Supported the Emergency (2004)
This bold and thought provoking collection of essays on India's Emergency explained the reasons why Khushwant Singh supported the proclamation on June 25. In the book, he goes to point out the mistakes which were made then and which, he says, must be avoided the next time conditions require suspension of democratic norms for the preservation of law and order. The book was edited by Sheela Reddy.


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