Gems of reflection
Reviewed by Nirbhai Singh
Khushwantnama: The Lesson of My Life
by Khushwant Singh
Pages xiii+191. Rs 399

THE present slim book by a versatile prolific writer of English has recollected vividly his past events beginning from early age of five and approximating a century in 2012. He frankly pens down his private life: “I enjoy the company of beautiful women; I take joy in poetry, and in watching nature.” (p. xii). Urdu poetry is passion for him. He rates high Ghalib and Iqbal (62-75). The book is split up into 26 gems of reflections churned out from his past memories. He advises that “Don’t show off by using difficult words. That comes in the way of communicating to the reader (91).” Hence, writing should not be pompous and pedantic.

He has written over 80 books, novels, collection of short stories, and translated Urdu poetry into English. His works in a journalistic style and simple, pithy English are fascinating for common readers. For a creative writer it is often ‘therapy for a troubled soul’. The motivating force of creative writings cannot be money. “To be a good writer, you have to be totally honest and not afraid to speak out. You have to have the ability to work hard and stamina…” (p 90).

He calls a spade and spade. He avers that: “We take liberties and distort history textbooks to conform to our ideas and ideals…..” (p35). His advice is, “don’t be afraid to be yourself and to be honest. If you write fearlessly and candidly you have to be prepared to pay the price.”

He rightly opines that in later life man is often obsessed with impending death and loses interest in his livelihood. Nonetheless, “There are two key things one needs to think about: health and financial stability.”

He is critical of parasitic sadhus who live on working-people’s earnings (page 37). Politicians are dangerous for the society: “Lust for power and the lure of money lead to horse-trading.”

He eulogises Ambedkar as a messiah for the orphaned Dalit class. According to him, Abdul Kalam was the ideal president of India (p124). He keeps Gandhi in high esteem for his concept of Satyagraha. Truth for force is God for him. Khushwant Singh is an agnostic and anti-ritualistic. The book is of immense interest for the common readers.