Eulogy: Khushwant Singh (of Hadali)


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So your wish for a peaceful departure was granted, you finally met Bade Mian the way you wanted. I am gussa at you for no reason, and I hope the Bandobast at your cremation is really good and one befitting a man of your stature. Just two days back I blogged about you, I never knew your time was up. But then I guess Kawal must be waiting for you. For you made her wait an awful long time to complete your mission, twelve years to be exact. I hope you had your single malt last night and a good dinner too. When the solicitor texted me today with this sad news, the natural reaction was that of disbelief. Just two words, “Khushwant Singh” were enough, Google filled me in of your sad departure.

As I write this eulogy in your honor I get flashbacks of characters and instances I have read in your books. The human mind is strange, recalling a movie scene is one thing, but imagining about something you have read is totally different, for the human is imaginative beyond limits. It can conjure events, instances, acts, scenes in a very different way, and these are the kind of literary flashbacks I am talking about. I think of Bhagmati, I think of you, you old sod, I imagine of the Sikh who lets the Muslim woman escape (from your Novel Delhi), I imagine about Mir Taqi Mir (Delhi Novel, again), my mind races to a group of small children in Hadali, doing Gheesi at night to clean their bottoms after defecating. Then I think of Mala and Rahul, boy they must be old. I imagine coming to your place at Sujan Singh Park right on time, for you do not like being late. I imagine being offered Scoth on the Rocks, which I refuse. I imagine you talking to me. I crack a joke at you, reminding you of the fellow who wrote a letter to you calling you, “Pakistani randi ka bacha”, I imagine you laughing, you old sod. Then I think of Juggut Singh, Mohin Kumar, the “Borra Binch”, Molly Gomes and Dhanno. I remember you writing somewhere about Empror Akbar having 5000 women in his Harem, lucky sod I say.

I come home and tell me wife of your departure, she is taken aback. She senses I am sad. She consoles me by saying, “well, he might be gone but you still have his books.” My daughter asks me, “How was your day?”, I tell her, “my friend died”. She asks “which one?”, I say, “Khushwant Singh”. “Oh says she” and walks out of the room. I tell them I am in mourning, they are quiet and exchange weird looks. The man has gone cuckoo, they think, I know for sure. How can you call someone a “friend” without having met him? How can you mourn someone without ever having met him? You cannot, but Khushwant Singh, you can. For he is known because of his writings, world over.

Flashbacks come again, I am reminded of a letter you received somewhere from Canada, with no address on the envelope, just your name, Delhi and the word “Bastard” written on it. I know you laughed it off and in fact complimented the Indian Postal Service for their efficiency, in being able to find you and deliver the letter. You know, where I come from they don’t stock books of authors where you come from. So I have to look around really hard to find them. They say, when a person dies, all departed souls come to greet him or her. They also say, all souls rest in a special place till doomsday, but hey, you don’t believe in resurrection or afterlife so this may not apply to you, since you are an agnostic.

I imagine you coming out of a swimming pool wearing your swimming cap, laying down on the sun chair and having a malt. Man, you got me very imaginative. Now that you are gone, I am sure you must have met Kawal, Manur Qadir, Mountbatten, Gurcharan Singh Tohra (whom you disliked so much), Z.A. bhutto and even Zia ul Haq. Old man, you will be missed dearly, but then your writings will prevail and fill the great void.

Life gallops on at at reckless pace

I know not where it will stop

The reins are not in my hands

My feet not in the stirrups. ~ Mirza Ghalib.

You wanted to be remembered as someone who made people smile. Well you have done that, quite too often, many times, over and over again. Mission accomplished.

And finally your favorite couplet by Iqbal:

Baagh-e-bahisht sey mujhey hukm-e safar diya tha kyon?

Kaar-e-Jahan daraz hai, ab mera intizar kar.

Bon Voyage, old man.

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40 plus….loner……foodie….day dreamer….bibliophile…..gun freak….peace loving….smitten by wanderlust….happy go lucky….tea junkie….coffee lover….once in a while movie goer….laid-back blogger with no interest in politics….Happy reading! :-)

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