Indian literary legend: The Venerable Khushwant Singh

It’s impossible to love Indian writing without, sooner or later, coming across the name Khushwant Singh. This legendary novelist and journalist is still working at age 96 and has been a prominent figure on the Indian literary scene for over fifty years. His irreverent weekly newspaper column ‘With Malice towards One and All’ is amongst the most widely read in the country.

Singh’s first and perhaps most widely read book is Train to Pakistan. As the story goes, Singh – who was a practising lawyer in the High Court of Lahore before Partition, was on his way to his family’s summer residence at Kasauli. Driving his car an unusually vacant road, Singh met a group of Sikhs who proudly narrated to him how they had just butchered away all residents of a Muslim village. That was in 1947 and, within ten years, Singh’s version of that tale, Train to Pakistan, became one of the great early fictional accounts of the horrors of Partition.

In the years since then Khushwant Singh has been an extraordinarily prolific Indian writer and journalist, completing over 80 books, as well as entering politics during the 1980’s. Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974, Khushwant Singh returned the honour in 1984 to register his protest against Operation Bluestar, the Union Government’s siege of the Golden Temple.

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