After having read so many books authored by Khushwant Singh, I badly wanted to read some book written on him, but none was to be found. I guess they were all waiting for him to die. It makes more sense to write about the dead, instead of a living person. So this unplanned visit to the Frere Hall had me scouring for something interesting. Lo and Behold, I found this book, “A Man Called Khushwant Singh”, edited by Rohini Singh, sitting in at the bottom of a huge heap of books as if placed in forced state of “solitary confinement.” One look at it was enough, telling me this was a keeper. The shopkeeper wanted 250 rupees for it, I protested, a little haggling followed, finally he won, saying, “original hai”. Meaning, its not a fake. By the way, I don’t like fake copies of books that they make here, its unethical, the paper they use sucks big time and I find the books repulsive, very that is.
So how do you review and old book that was published 18 years ago? Well the usual way. This book about “The dirty old man” Khushwant Singh is a nice collection of articles written by a number of people which includes his son Rahul Singh as he pens his thoughts and experience of the being the son of Khushwant Singh, one by Baljit Singh his nephew (a bit of scorn detected here), Prem Karpal, Ajeet Cour, Surabi Banerjee and our very venerated Shobha De. In all 12 men and women have expressed their thoughts on the man. It makes a good read any day as one learns how these people see Khushwant the way he is or was if you will.
It is amusing to hear Rahul talk of people badmouthing his father in front of him while they don’t know him as being Khushwant’s son. There’s apt talk done by Baljit Singh on how he sees him, the way he thinks Khushwant decided to support Indira Gandhi’s emergency, having the temerity of calling him a chamcha of the then Government, or of his profane pennings in the novel “Delhi” which according to him was a good historical novel turned bad because of the filth in it.
Most amusing to read is Shobha De’s account of Khsushwant who it seems is as obsessed with the old man as he was with pretty women. “Listen Sweetheart…” the chapter is titled and same are the opening lines. The last section has small mention of the contributors. It is a good book that gives insight in to the life of Khaushwant Singh and how people see him.