Tuesday, April 14, 2009

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

Delhi's celebrated author in his winter years.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One night, during the first half of April, 2009, Delhi's legendary author Khushwant Singh, said to be 95-year-old, fell off from his bed while sleeping at his home in Sujan Singh Park, a graceful if crumbly apartment complex very close to Khan Market.

It was pitch dark; Mr Singh stumbled around but could not get up. He then called for his son Rahul who was unable to pick him. A security guard was later summoned from outside and only then was the author of such classics like Train to Pakistan and A History of the Sikhs was brought back to his bed. Luckily, there were no injuries.

"I'm very worried," said Mr Singh when I met him a few days later. "At my age, the fall could have been fatal.” Sitting on his usual fireside sofa, in white pajamas, red-pullover and a cap, he was sipping scotch.

Mr Singh's living room remains a coveted tourist spot for all those Indians and visiting foreigners who fancy themselves as writers, poets, intellectuals and leaders. But no one, no matter even if it is the Prime Minister's wife, is permitted inside without an appointment.

No surprises, of course. The author who titled his autobiography Not a Nice Man to Know is famous for being a schedule stickler. He gets up daily at 4 am. Earlier he would take a walk or play badminton but now due to advanced age, he spends all his day hours reading, writing.

Even though he is in his 90s, Mr Singh writes two weekly newspaper columns that continue to enjoy a wide readership. Besides, he makes it a point to reply to every letter he receives from his admirers and critics. In the evening, he entertains his privileged visitors with whiskey, canapés and gossip.

While Mr Singh is a polite person, he can also be blunt without the guest being aware of it. One evening a 70-year-old lady admirer had come from Calcutta for a darshan. Overwhelmed by so many books, she asked Mr Singh if she could take a few of them. Unfortunately, Mr Singh is one of those people who can never say 'no'. The Calcutta lady happily picked as many books as she could from the shelves, including the autographed copy of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Courage: Eight Portraits. When the lady was leaving, Mr Singh shook her hands and said, "It's the first and hopefully last time I'm seeing you."

No doubt Mr Singh has a sense of humor – check out his multi-volume joke books - but now he has started looking sad. Surrounded by books, an aged cook and a daughter whose home is opposite his apartment, Mr Singh has a rather solitary existence. He may be the living landmark of Delhi but all this fame has not spared him from that peculiar loneliness that falls on anyone who manages to reach his kind of advanced years. In his conversations, Mr Singh often rues that all his friends have passed away. The man has outlived his close relatives. His wife, Kaval Malik, died in 2002. His son-in-law died four years later. However, Mr Singh loves his scotch too much to leave too soon. He has got his bed dragged against the bookshelves to pre-empt any fall. The Delhi Walla wishes him good health and happiness.

I'm listening

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

Scotch and the company of women

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

One more peg

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

Family portraits

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

Quite alone

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

The young Khushwant

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park

The old Khushwant

City Landmark – Khushwant Singh, Sujan Singh Park


Rima Kaur said...

i was a little taken aback after seeing the photos.. he seems to have become more frail, naturally.. old age seems to have taken away the grace from his body, but it has left his mind intact. i wish good health to him.

visionary said...

hey.....khushwant singh!!!
wow...i just luv reading his column and his books...i completely adore him.
u lucky chap...got admission into his house & chat with him....i envy u.
God bless him!!!

tatir said...

Mayank, thank you for sharing parts of Mr. Khushwant Singh's life. He is a brilliant writer, and I hope to meet such a tremondous soul who continues to enrich us.
If chance permits, I shall gift him a 25 year scotch bottle I ahve yet to open -- it would be an honour to celebrate it with Mr.K.Singh. My most best wishes for his life.


Syed Asad Hasan said...

thanks for this post. I like his newspaper column and love him for his honest and witty writing. i have heard that once he was in the hit list of sikh extremist organizations because of his support to indra gandhi and operation blue star.

Anita, New Delhi said...

I am a fan of Mr. Khushwant Singh's flowing and descriptive writing style. Nice to read about him on your blog.

Anonymous said...

he is the best.he was a favourite of my papa nd now mine too.may he hav a long nice life.God bless him nd may awl his dreams cum true

Prasant said...

to anonymous above, bhai get your spellings corrected. i doubt you read much. check out the way you have spelt "awl" and "cum". what you got hungry and chewed on your words? or were you thinking of "cumming"? ha ha ha.

Samiulla Bandarkar, Riyadh said...

Old age, Alas!

Rajiv said...

prasant bhi sahab ji ,m tht anonymous:).hahahahaha but 1 thing is sure,soofi bhai nd khushwant sir both ROCK


सुशील कुमार छौक्कर said...

इनके बेधड़क बोलने का जज्बा पसंद आता है।

Anonymous said...

K S is a great writer. I love him very much. I want to know which scotch brand he loves.

Scorpio said...

I have been a great admirer of Khushwant Singh. The range of his knowledge and writing is immense. However, I am unable to digest one thing.Khushwant Singh smartly adopts a strategy. He accepts an undeniable fact- Bhidranwale's misdoings in his HT column last Sunday- to gain credibility and then forces a biased opinion down on his readers.Once he accepts that senseless violence was directed against helpless Hindus during the Punjab insurgency, why does he seek justice only for the victims of 1984 riots?

pkanand said...

I had heard about Mr. Singh earlier.It was delight seeing a man of his stature on T.V.
He has left a profound impact on the Indian Politics. He speaks his mind and means it too.
I will make sure, I read his contributions to literature and learn being a honest soul.

ashok mohan said...

Khushwant Singh is pride of India,The most popular english writer of India.Very straight and unbiased.

sarwar said...

hi soofi i wanna share a rare book by ruth reyna with Mr singh as i am sure noone on this earth can read and understand this book on reincarnation could u please help me out?

liberty said...

Khushwant Singh is weird. He might be a good writer but definately not a good Sikh. He writes one thing about Sant jee (praising his charismatic personality) and on the other hand, he acts as a traitor to the Sikh kaum, writing bs in his books.

Amandeep Kaur said...

That is what the true journalisim is. Not saying bcoz I am his lost grand daughter by blood relation, Although I live in USA. But bcoz he is truly a gem of India. He always showed both sides of the coin. Very critical sometimes.

Anonymous said...

He is one of the greatest writer of our times. He has entertained us all these years with his serious, creative and funny pieces. I wish him a healthy and long life. Could anyone confirm me one news? One of my friend told me that Khushwant Singh has has stated in one of his 'newspaper article' that Rabindranath Tagore has translated some poems of Maulana Jelaluddin Rumi and claimed them to be written by him.

P.N.Muttoo said...

I just want to get an autograph of his on any one of his literary creations ! He is simply a class apart hats off !!

sundararajan ganesan said...

from a one-time enfant terrible, K.S. has become venerable! I love him.

Sansar said...

Sobha Singh identified and testified against Notable freedom fighter Bhagat Singh in Lahore. Bhagat Singh was subsequently hanged to death and is known as Sheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh. It is alleged that Sobha Singh received the kinghthood due to this act of loyalty.His son Khushwant Singh accepted that his father gave testimony against Bhagat Singh as the court proceedings are available in records, but denies that it lead to Bhagat Singh's death sentence.
^ http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?204408