Khushwant Singh was born in Pakistan and lived and died in India but his heart was in both countries. So this year too, Partition and the Indo-Pak ties took centrestage at the opening session of the three-day Khushwant Singh Literary Festival (KSLF) at the Kasauli Club here on Friday.
The fest every year throws light on issues that were dear to the irreverent Sardar. As affable Rahul Singh, his son, puts it, “The KSLF is never complete without friends from Pakistan. The contingent from across the border was present in full force with former US ambassador Abida Hussain, Pakistan Oxford University Press managing director Ameena Saiyid, parliamentarian Fakir Aijjazuddin and writer-journalist Mehr Tarar.
“The greatest tribute to Khushwant would be not only to love one another but also love the nation,” said union minister Farooq Abdullah, who fondly remembers KS for his love for the country and as someone who disliked divides. “I remember him for the sense of oneness he brought with himself and in his writings,” he said, urging those present to “live as one” and to “forgo vested interests”.
The discussion took a political turn when Abdullah said Kashmir is an area of contention. Pointing to fellow Pakistani delegates, he said, “You cannot take the area we have; we cannot take the area you have,” adding, “We must handle the issue in a way that neither you feel defeated, nor do we feel defeated.”
Abida Hussain credited KS with creating a salutary bond between people from both countries through his literary writings.
Describing his relation with KS as one based on humour, former cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi recounted the writer’s dislike for cricket. “But when it came to the sport improving the ties between the two countries, he approved of it,” Bedi said.
Senior journalist Bachi Karkaria, who worked with Singh at ‘Illustrated Weekly’, said Khushwant’s was the most lucid and powerful voice on Indo-Pak relations. “So, the fest couldn’t have come at a more opportune time given the recent thaw in the bilateral relations,” she added.
In keeping with Khushwant’s wish, part of his ashes was scattered at his birthplace Hadali in Pakistan. So his wish to break free from the boundaries and roam free has been realised as his writings keep touching millions of hearts on either side of the Radcliffe Line.
Pak edition of ‘Train to Pakistan’
The audience applauded as Ameena Saiyid said a Pakistani edition of KS’s most celebrated work ‘Train to Pakistan’ was in the pipeline. “It could go a long way in bridging the gulf between the two countries,” she said.