The way he was: Khushwant Singh’s dinner date with President Giani Zail Singh | india news | Hindustan Times
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The way he was: Khushwant Singh’s dinner date with President Giani Zail Singh

In the opening session of Khushwant Singh Litfest, friends relate interesting anecdotes while remembering the late writer-editor.

india Updated: Oct 07, 2017 10:02 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Kasauli
Khushwant Singh,dinner date,Giani Zail Singh
Khushwant Singh and Giani Zail Singh (HT Photo)

When Giani Zail Singh became President of India, he expressed his desire to dine with writer-editor Khushwant Singh whom he had known for long. What happened after that makes for one of the many interesting anecdotes about the writer, who believed not only in writing ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ but also being “pucca about time”.

Relating this anecdote in the opening session of the Khushwant Singh Litfest here on Friday, Ashok Chopra, co-director of the event, said Khushwant fixed the date for dinner at his residence in Sujaan Singh Park in New Delhi and the scheduled time was 7’O clock.

Ashok Chopra, co-director of the event, said Khushwant fixed the date for dinner at his residence in Sujaan Singh Park in New Delhi and the scheduled time was 7’O clock.

“I was one of the few friends invited to the dinner, with our drinks in our hands. But at 8’0 clock a phone call came from the Rashtrapati Bhawan that the President would come shortly. At this, Mrs Singh asked for the dinner to be served because Khushwant’s day started at 4 am. The dinner was almost gone when another call came that the President had got into the car and would be there soon. Khushwant Singh then replied that the food is finished and the cook has left for his quarters.”

‘HE GREATLY ADMIRED GANDHI, MOTHER TERESA’

Khuswant’s son Rahul Singh recounted that he greatly admired two persons, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Their pictures still hang in the author’s Kasauli home, Raj Villa.

He said his father went to Kolkata to interview Mother Teresa for New York Times and when the article finally appeared in the prestigious paper, she sent a letter of appreciation. The last line of the letter was: “I know that you not believe in God but I am sending you God’s blessings”.

‘HIS IRRITATION JAYALALITHA’

Arun Shourie spoke of Khushwant’s “irritation” Amma, former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha, of course. Shourie said the writer told him that Amma wrote him long letters full of impropriety which he never replied to but just stored them in his Kasauli home archives.

“Are they still there?” Shourie asked Rahul Singh, forgetting that Khushwant’s son was too “proper” to read anyone’s letters, even those written to his late father.

There were many anecdotes shared by those who knew him well. One of these related to the writer request that he wanted to salute the soldier at the first Khushwant Singh Litfest.

Last but not the least was about a letter written by a pro-Khalistani from Norway during the era of terrorism in Punjab, with the address reading: ‘Khushwant Singh, Bastard, India.’ What tickled him was that the letter was actually delivered at his house by the postal authorities.