As literature lovers and prominent personalities from the city filled the editorial hall of Hindustan Times on Saturday afternoon and peals of laughter reverberated in the air, close associates of Khushwant Singh recalled hilarious anecdotes from the life and times of the writer, journalist, satirist and former editor of Hindustan Times (80-83), who died this day last month (March 20) at the age of 99.
Writer Usha Mahajan and veteran journalist Lakhan Naqvi flew down from Delhi especially to pay homage to the grand old man of Indian journalism, who spared none and amused everyone through his ribald humour in his books, writings and column ‘With Malice Towards One and All’.
Varsha Pandey, who teaches English and business communication, read excerpts from KS’s son Rahul Singh’s writings. The event, peppered with poetry and ‘shairi’, was organised by Lucknow Expressions, a society that promotes literary, cultural, musical, societal and intellectual activities in the city, in association with Hindustan Times.
Luck now Expression’s Jayant Krishna opened the session by his comment, “Such men are not made anymore (Aise log ab bante nahi).
In a function organised by Hindustan Times to honour Khushwant Singh, literature lovers and prominent personalities discussed his works
Usha Mahajan revealed how KS gave her direction in life and inspired her to write. The Delhibased journalist-cum-writer, who has translated many of his books, said she was getting more royalty from the translations than her own original writings. She further said it was a misconception that Singh was a womanizer. “In fact women were crazy about him. He only solved their problems,” she said.
Opening some ‘unedited’ chapters from the writer’s life, eminent journalist Lakhan Naqvi recalled how KS gave him the mantra of good writing. “Part fact, part exaggeration and whole lot of imagination make for a good report,” Khushwant taught me. “He himself took liberties with the language and that’s why his writings have the unique flavour,” said Naqvi.
Revealing the writer’s dislike for Pakistanis, Naqvi said KS would often boast how people from Pakistan visited India either to see the Qutab Minar or to see him. He also talked about the writer’s love for whiskey and how he would never miss his ‘happy hour’ every evening between 7 and 8 pm.
Lucknow’s very own bookseller Ram Advani recalled his brief meetings with the writer and revealed that Singh and Ruskin Bond were the bestselling authors in the country.
HT Senior Resident Editor Sunita Aron announced plans to institute an award in the name of Khushwant Singh for original writing. The award may be announced during next year’s literary festival, she said.