‘A nice man to know’: The late Khushwant Singh makes a splash in London
Seventh edition of the hitherto Kasauli-based Khushwant Singh Lit-fest travelled to London, where one of the most known individuals in contemporary public life spent years, first as a student and after India’s independence, as a diplomat in the Indian high commission.world Updated: May 18, 2018 12:05 IST
Anecdotes, humour and memories of the life and times of the late Khushwant Singh flew thick and fast as his friends, family and admirers gathered here on Thursday for a literature festival, with all agreeing that he was indeed “a nice man to know”.
Led by his son, Rahul Singh, the seventh edition of the hitherto Kasauli-based Khushwant Singh Lit-fest travelled to London, where one of the most known individuals in contemporary public life spent years, first as a student and after India’s independence, as a diplomat in the Indian high commission.
Rahul Singh said: “England was very much part of my father’s life. He imbibed British values here. The lit-fest mirrors his passions and concerns for the environment, educating the girl child, and improving India-Pakistan relations.”
The half-day event began with him recalling two memorable passages from his father, including one titled “Why I am an Indian”, that, he noted, were not only appreciated by many, but also infuriated some.
Khushwant Singh, who died in March 2014 aged 99, mentored many journalists and writers during his working life that spanned journalism, literature, law and politics. His many roles included editing Hindustan Times.
In a session titled “KS: Not a Nice Man to Know”, speakers recalled their experiences and interactions with him, including the famous notice outside his house in Delhi’s Sujan Singh Park, which cautioned visitors not to ring the bell unless they were invited.
Imtiaz Dharker recited a new poem on him, while novelist Jaishree Mishra recalled Singh’s review of her debut novel, Ancient Promises and he introducing her to Delhi’s literary circle.
Neelima Dalmia Adhar, daughter of industrialist Ramkrishna Dalmia, recalled Singh’s long association with her father during his time as editor of the erstwhile Illustrated Weekly of India, while raconteur Seema Anand narrated one of Singh’s inter-faith stories, and said she missed him the most while working on a book on erotic literature of the east.
The lit-fest at the May Fair Hotel in central London included contributions from Pakistani writer Moni Mohsin, Shrabani Basu and Tessa Blackstone in a session on “Women: A 100 Years Later”, when concern was also expressed over the status of women in the Indian subcontinent.
Other speakers included Meghnad Desai, Mihir Bose, Zareer Masani, Charles Allen, John Keay and Rosie Lewellyn-Jones. Academic Rachel Dwyer, who compèred the event, announced that a tree would be planted on behalf of the speakers in the periphery of the Sariska Tiger Reserve.