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Updated: March 21, 2014 14:56 IST

Khushwant Singh’s humour will live on through his writings

    Sowmiya Ashok
    Shubhomoy Sikdar
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Mala Singh and Rahul Singh (right), daughter and son respectively, of noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Hindu Mala Singh and Rahul Singh (right), daughter and son respectively, of noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The funeral for the 99-year-old writer, journalist, columnist and joke-teller was solemn but without tears.

An elderly Sikh gentleman held on to a yellow book of jokes as he made his way to his vehicle outside the Lodhi Road crematorium here on Thursday evening. Perhaps, he thought bringing along the book was essential for the tribute he had paid its author, Khushwant Singh, who breathed his last late that afternoon.

The funeral for the 99-year-old writer, journalist, columnist and joke-teller was solemn but without tears.

“He was a rare character. He lived his life his way. Very few people do that” was how people -- friends, family and colleagues -- described him. He was remembered for his jokes, his love for fine whiskey, his generous encouragement and, most of all, frankness.

“You could not meet him without an appointment,” said Shumita Didi, a friend, who admitted to not having seen Mr. Singh for a few years now. “Once I landed up at Kasauli and thought I should drop by his place. He did not seem very pleased that I showed up unannounced but still decided to entertain me,” she said with a smile. Moving the furniture even by an inch in his lounge room would get him a frown from his wife, said Shumita.

“He once got ticked off because we were shooting a TV show in his house and we happened to move the furniture a bit,” she laughed.

Mr. Singh was among the few people who answered his own phone, had strict times for drinking in the evening and was so honest with his feedback that writers came back to him over and over again.

Activist and writer Sadia Dehlvi met him as recently as last week when she dropped in unannounced. “To my delight, Khushwant said that he was expecting me and he always did so. His last words to me were ‘Jaldi Aaiyo’ (come back soon),” she said.

Known to be a connoisseur of Urdu poetry, Mr. Singh spent a lot of time reading noted poet Ghalib’s works and would recite his couplets, recalled Ms. Dehlvi. “He took pride in the fact that he never missed a single deadline throughout his career,” she said about his professional life.

Wreathes from various organisations were laid around Mr. Singh’s body before his cremation.

“Every second day, I hear about a good friend’s passing away,” said Aruna Vasudev, a friend of Mr. Singh for over four decades. “Among some of my first memories of him was when I had just returned from Europe and was hesitating to have a smoke. He said to me “of course, you can smoke. Go ahead!” she said.

As for his humour, it lives on through his writings. “I did not see any columnist using the element of humour in the content dished out to the readers, something which was aplenty in Khushwant’s writings,” said former Chief Election Commissioner M. S. Gill, who was among the crowd that came to bid adieu to the noted journalist.

More In: Delhi

Khushwant Singh was one of India's most celebrated authors, its most widely read journalist,
and its most outspoken public figure. Khushwant Singh had a long, prolific and illustrious
literary career spanning several decades during which he wrote on subjects varying from
politics to poetry to issues of social concern. He was particularly admired for being fearless in
expressing his views in his writing and speech. Great MAN He was. Khushwant Singh did
one better — he needed no obituary. He had written one for himself well in advance: “Here
lies one who spared neither man nor God/ Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod/
Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun/ Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun.”
(Death at my Doorstep, Roli Books). Sir RIP, we miss you.


from:  Major Manohar AM.
Posted on: Mar 21, 2014 at 13:49 IST
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