Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh

“Here lies one who spared neither man nor God; Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod; Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun; Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun.”

This is the self-composed epitaph of a man who literally spared none with his thought-provoking ideas and managed to carve a niche in the hearts of his countless admirers.

He is none other than the legendary Indian writer and intrepid journalist Khushwant Singh — an iconoclast, a social rebel, a maverick, an agnostic and more. Although like John Donne, a famous Metaphysical poet, he too had the chutzpah to make candid confessions that he viewed women as the objects of lust and desire, yet he was never immodest or outrageous with the female sex.

Ergo, a majority of the critics have never gone to the extent of holding him in the dock of morality on these frivolous grounds. However, a few prudish and sanctimonious intellectuals with a sense of fragile morality, did take umbrage at his extra fondness for writing about sex. Much to their chagrin, their derogatory remarks about him being ‘an old lascivious man obsessed with the female body’, failed to dampen his spirits and could not deter him from writing what he intended to.

In no way is calibrating sexuality a moral offence and if such is the case, then all the renowned authors like John Donne, D H Lawrence, Alex Comfort, Vatsyayana for his magnum opus Kama Sutra and many more (who make sexuality the leitmotif of their works) must be hauled over the coals and their works be proscribed.

Dubbing Singh sensual seems acceptable but calling him a morbid man obsessed with vulgarity is nothing short of a sin. Undoubtedly, art and sensuality have gone hand in hand in the cases of several artists. Sexuality has been prominent even in the paintings and sculptures of heavenly maidens at Maharashtra’s rock-cut caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

It is not that Singh has only focused on kisses and cuddles with the opposite sex. He has, in fact, given the world the finest of works like Train to Pakistan, The History of Sikhs, The Voice of God and Other Stories, The Sikhs Today, Tragedy of Punjab and so on. So, it would be an act of gross injustice to call him the Sardar of Smut.

This secular sardar, in fact, never favoured caste and creed. He was above all sorts of lowliness. He had only been a humanist at heart who raised his staccato against the ghastly communal riots and mindless killings.

To commemorate his birth anniversary that falls on August 15*, it is fitting to pay reverence to him by reading again his blood curdling novel Train to Pakistan. The novel is more than a gory tale of dastardly crimes and ghoulish horrors that lacerate the torso of our motherland.

The poignant work of utmost literary merit symbolises the importance of love, peace, unity, compassion and liberty. It marks a dynamic link between the two sister countries India and Pakistan which should shun the shuttle of hatred and transform the trains to transport friendly nationals and strengthen cultural bonhomie.

The religion of peace is what this literary genius desired to spread in every nook and cranny of the world through his writings. Deeply anguished over the genocide of Sikhs, Khushwant Singh returned his Padma Bhushan award in 1984 in protest against the massacre of many innocent people. Least caring for fame, Singh was certainly a saintly man with carnal aspirations. And what, indeed, is wrong with that?

As Khushwant Singh’s exact birth date was not recorded, his father had put it down as February 2, at the time of school enrollment. However, as his grandmother asserted he was born in August, Khushwant set the date for himself as August 15

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