The Good, The Bad and the Ridiculous by Khushwant Singh is an anthology of profiles of men and women, some famous others notorious, which the old man has had the honor of meeting or knowing in his lifetime. It contains over 30 profiles of politicians, Ex- Presidents, Prime Ministers, poets, Generals, social workers, dacoits, Viceroys and men like LK Advani and Jarnail Singh Bhinadranwale. In this book Khsuhwant has profiled, Mahatma Gandhi, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Manzur Qadir, Pholan Devi, Tikka Khan, Ziaur Rehman, Sanjay Gandhi, Indra Gandhi, Louis Mountbatten, Mother Teresa, Jawaharlal Nehru, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and George Fernandes to name a few.
The man gets to the point right away, no mincing of words, just straight praises or criticism depending on what the person in question was. I really liked the way he downsizes the likes of LK Advani and Jarnail Singh Bhinadranwale, who mostly have been eulogized, depending on which side of the divide one is located on. But its rare to find a man from India having the guts to criticize such figures. Oh and wait till you read about his views on Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the one time head of RSS. He writes, “Guru Golwalkar had long been on the top of my hate list because I could not forget the RSS’s role in communal riots and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.”
You don’t have to be a member of Mensa to find out who The Good, The Bad or The Ridiculous is out of these 35 profiles. The beauty of Khushwant’s writing style id that he gets straight to the point, whether the man/woman in cross hairs is dead or alive. And with good reason, why picture someone as a hero when he in fact was not one.
Frankly some of the personalities were quite alien to me as they are purely Indian and we seldom get to hear about them over here in Pakistan. But then its always good to hear candid and blunt remarks about anyone, even someone like Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who as the writing appears has been graded as “The Good” by Khushwant.
Most impressive is his narration of Mother Teresa. I have read about her but never got to read a first hand account of her. In fact all are first hand accounts, so it’s not like a theoretical research by the author. It’s a small book a little over 200 pages which one can enjoy reading over the weekend.