Second coming of Khushwant Singh at King’s College in London
The festival opened, as is the tradition, with a session paying homage to the literary genius of Khushwant Singh.Updated: Jun 02, 2019 13:48 IST
A five-hour pop-up edition of the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival on invitation of the then Indian High Commissioner prompted the King’s College, London University, to host the two-day festival this year, on June 1 and 2 at their Strand campus.
Rahul Singh, son of Indian author, lawyer, diplomat and journalist Khushwant Singh, says: “King’s is where Khushwant studied law and qualified as a barrister. The democratic values he cherished life-long were imbibed from his education and several years of living and working in the UK.”
Niloufer Bilimoria, co-director of KSLF, adds “The theme of the festival is ‘At Home in the World’ which includes migrations, partitions, analysis of colonial history and more that is common to the two cultures. The festival opened, as is the tradition, with a session paying homage to the literary genius of Khushwant Singh, with Andrew White of BBC saying: “Khushwant Singh was the man to go to when one needed a quote and I never returned disappointed.” Authors Zareen Masani and Humra Qureshi also recalled their fond remembrance of the ‘man in the bulb’.
Other sessions included a tribute to the late Nobel-laureate Vidia Naipaul by his friends Farrukh Dhondy, Roderick Matthews and Rahul Singh. Incidentally, Rahul was the guide for Naipul in his two books–India: A Wounded Civilization (1977) and the sprawling– India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990), and even travelled with him to Punjab when the state saw the sway of Sikh militancy.
The game of cricket is another passion shared by India and Britain and this was relived in a discussion on Mihir Bose’s new book ‘The Nine Waves: The Extraordinary Story of Indian Cricket’ with cricketer Allan Lamb and writer Robert Winder. This keeps time with the Cricket World Cup 2019. The fascinating story of film star Kabir Bedi’s extraordinary mother, Freda Bedi, has been captured by author Naomi Levine and Andrew Whitehead in their respective books. Freda came in from the West and found h her home and passions in the East. Journalist Mick Brown joined the authors in the discussion.
Punjab and Sikhism were abiding concerns and interests of the agnostic Khushwant. Kim Wagner’s new book ‘Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre’, will mark the sober centenary of Jallianwalla Bagh.
After the London edition KSLF will be back to the Kasauli hills in October, with 550 years of Guru Nanak and 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi as its central focus.