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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Farewell Khushwant Singh!

Khushwant Singh's sad demise on 20th March'14 came as a rude shock.
Too many good memories are attached with this name. I must have been 12 or 13 years when my father introduced me to The Illustrated Weekly of India, the most widely read magazine. I am sure I didn't understand much, but being an ardent admirer of my father, I soon came to like the familiar font as also the feel and size of the magazine. It was titillating to watch the turban tied writer sitting under a bulb thinking seriously. I would watch watch & watch in attempt to devour as much meaning as possible.
I would love it all, when my father would read out some interesting passage from the writer's page. It was fun to watch my father chuckle in delight.
Soon, I joined college. Around the same time, the editorship of the magazine changed hands. The baton was now in the hands of M.V. Kamath. But Khushwant Singh and his robust humor remained in our minds. Sadly, the weekly folded within a few years.
Years passed. I was now married woman with a baby daughter. That's when Operation Bluestar took place in 1984. A real sad event. And that was the first time, many of us saw Khushwant Singh very, very hurt and angry. I quote this because this acted as a parameter by which I judged the happening. Indeed you don't care much when an ever complaining person wails aloud. But you do sit up with a start when a strong man like Khushwant Singh gives out a loud cry! On the personal front his outburst made me dwell on things that could hurt people. Most certainly an important turning point in my life.
Some more years passed by. And I happened to read Khushwant Singh's story in my daughter's English Text book- The Portrait of a Lady. A poignant story beautifully woven around his grandmother.She fed the sparrows daily and so when she died, the mute birds gathered around her to pay their last respects.
Today, when Khushwant Singh is no more I realize that the man was truly great. He had the ability to steer your conscience without sounding  pedagogical.
I will always remember you, Khushwant Singh.