Khushwantnama

FPJ BureauUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2019, 09:16 PM IST
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In Khushwantnama, 98-year-old Khushwant Singh reflects on a life lived fully and the lessons it has taught him.

In the hard-bound book with gold lettering, Khushwant Singh begins by saying that as per Hindu belief he is now in the final stage of life, sanyaas. He writes that at 98 he counts himself lucky that he can still enjoy his single malt whiskey every evening and that he relishes tasty food and looks forward to hearing the latest gossip and scandal. In this context the country’s most prolific writer and columnist admits, “If you have nothing nice to say about anyone, come and sit beside me.”

While looking back at his life and about mistakes committed by him, he thinks that he has wasted precious time in pointless rituals, socialising, the years of his working life which were spent as a lawyer and then a diplomat, until he took to writing.

He writes, “In my 98th year, I have little left to look forward to, but lots to reminisce about. I draw a balance sheet of my achievements and failures. On the credit side I have over 80 books: novels, collections of short stories, biographies, histories, translations from Punjabi and Urdu, and many essays. On the debit side is my character. I spend many evenings going over the evil deeds I committed in my early years. With my airgun I killed dozens of sparrows who have done me no harm.”

He also comes to the sad conclusion that he has always been a bit of a lecher, from the tender age of four and has “never been able to conform to the Indian ideal of regarding women as my mothers, sisters or daughters, and that whatever their age to him they were, and are, objects of lust”.

Offering an anecdote about Mirza Ghalib’s love for mangoes, he says that once the poet who was strolling with the emperor in the palace orchard said, “Upon every fruit is written, this is the property of A, the son of B, the son of C and I am looking to see whether any of these bears my name and those of my father and grandfather.” Needless to say, the emperor had a basketful of his finest mangoes sent to him the same day.

Khushwantnama: The Lessons of My Life<br />Khushwant Singh<br />Penguin Viking<br />Pages: 188; Price: Rs 399

Khushwantnama: The Lessons of My Life
Khushwant Singh
Penguin Viking
Pages: 188; Price: Rs 399 |

On the topic of retirement, the author says that it is wise to start planning early so that one is comfortable post-retirement. He says that there are hundreds of options open to retired people and if they are short of money, they can take up some kind of business which brings in cash but to do nothing is a sure way of hastening the end.

Speaking of a person’s final stage in life, he says that he doesn’t fear death anymore but dreads the thought of going blind or being incapacitated due to old age. He’d rather die than live like that, he adds.

Throughout the book, the author reflects on a life lived fully and the lessons it has taught him. His candid views are a common feature throughout the book be it his views on population, Mahatma Gandhi, the publishing industry, etc. Also not just the language but even the font size is easy on the eye.

So all in all, a useful read and those who have read his earlier books will realise that it is true to his style of writing whereas those who are reading his book for the first time will find it to be a very interesting read.

R SRINIVASAN

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