Khushwant Singh

Indian author, lawyer, diplomat, journalist and politician (1914–2014)
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Khushwant Singh {Punjabi: ਖ਼ੁਸ਼ਵੰਤ ਸਿੰਘ, IPA: [xʊʃʋən̪t̪ sɪ́ŋɡ]} (born 2 February 1915 - March 20, 2014)) was a prominent Indian novelist and journalist. Singh's weekly column, "With Malice towards One and All", carried by several Indian newspapers, was among the most widely-read columns in the country.

Khushwant Singh

Quotes edit

  • Under its first two Indian editors [The Illustrated Weekly] became a vehicle of Indian culture devoting most of its pages to art, sculpture, classical dance and pretty pictures of flowers, birds, and dencing belles. It did not touch controversial subjects, was strictly apolitical and asexual (save occasional blurred reproductions of Khajuraho or Konarak). It earned a well-deserved reputation for dull respectability. I changed all that. What was a four-wheeled victoria taking well-draped ladies out to eat the Indian air I made a noisy rumbustious, jet-propelled vehicle of information, controversy and amusement. I tore up the unwritten norms of gentility, both visual and linguistic… . And slowly the circulation built up, till the Illustrated did become a weekly habit of the English-reading pseudo-elite of the country. It became the most widely read journal in Asia (barring Japan) because it reflected all the contending points of view on every conceivable subject: politics, economics, religion, and the arts.
  • What matters most is whether or not India will continue to remain a secular state committed to socialism or become a [[w:Hindu nationalism|Hindu Rashtra wearing a secular mask with an agenda of its own, including building a mammoth Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, preserving the Ram Setu and other relics associated with Hinduism. The choice is between an India of the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru on the one side (secular), and those of Vir Savarkar and Guru Golwalkar on the other (Hindutva). By no stretch of the imagination can it be called secular. We have to choose between remaining what we are or opt to become a Hindu Rashtra.
  • More than a bomb or gun/ The footwear is a potent weapon,/ For, what years of shouting couldn’t do/ A momentary missile has done/ And, in the bargain, blackened/ A Journalist’s profession;/ Even if justice has won/ Even Bush to Chidambaram/ It is becoming a bit too common;/ Thank God, it is as yet with danger fraught/ Thank God, my wife has yet used it not.
    • Quoted in "Do you want India to be a Hindu rashtra?"
  • Nelli was an unknown little village till over three thousand people were slain in one orgy of killing. It was Bangladeshi refugees killing Bengalis and Assamese; Assamese and Bengalis killing each other; tribals killing non-tribals; Muslims killing Hindus and Christians; Christians killing Hindus.
    • Many Faces, p. 29, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p 374
  • It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.
    • Khushwant Singh: 'Congress (I) is the Most Communal Party', Publik Asia, 16-11-1989. , quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743

Khushwant Singh: "Japji Sahib is Based on the Upanishads edit

"Khushwant Singh: "Japji Sahib is Based on the Upanishads"". Sikh Times. 15 February 2003. Retrieved on 21 December 2013. 

  • When I was in England as a student, socialism was much talked about among us. We read and discussed Bertrand Russell and attended lectures by Harold J. Laski. I have not retained many socialistic ideas, but I am still an agnostic.
  • This is one of those things - a contradiction. It was an emotional issue for me. I was born and raised in a Sikh family. I still keep my beard and turban and identify myself with the Sikh community.
    • On his spending a night in Bangla Sahib Gurdwara to seek the Guru's support during a difficult time in your personal life.
  • R.S.S is a communal organization and dangerous to the country's secular fabric. Look what they did to Muslims in Gujarat. However, they take a different approach with the Sikhs. During the 1984 Sikh pogrom, they did save many Sikh lives. R.S.S. volunteers participated during the tercentenary celebrations of the Khalsa in 1999. They consider the Khalsa to be a military wing of Hinduism and their savior.
  • Sikhs are kesadhari Hindus. Their religious source is Hinduism. Sikhism is a tradition developed within Hinduism. Guru Granth Sahib reflects Vedantic philosophy and Japji Sahib is based on the Upanishads.
  • Why not all three? I have worked hard on each (stated with pride and an endearing smile).
    • On being asked if he would like to be remembered as a historian, journalist, or fiction writer?
  • I base my opinion on historical evidence. After Guru Gobind Singh's death, Sikh peasantry rose in arms under Banda Bahadur. Then Jats in the Sikh Misl [armed groups] fought all through the 18th century to establish Khalsa raj [rule]. Out of the 12 Sikh misls, 9 were headed by Jat chiefs. In this struggle, they made tremendous sacrifices. If one generation was wiped out, the next generation took up arms. Finally, they emerged victorious at the end of the century.
    • On his pro-Jat bias in his historical book.

Khushwant Singh in Sikh Philosophy Network edit

Khushwant Singh in Sikh Philosophy Network. Sikh Philosophy .net. Retrieved on 21 December 2013.

  • Indians have sex more often in their brains and not where it should be. Sex is an elemental passion. It's an integral part of our life. All human relationship is based on the desire to have sex. It's human to have desire for sex and when it is not fulfilled, it comes out in *******ed forms. That is why celibacy does not work. The desire to have multiple partners is also normal. Married people commit adultery in their mind - happy married life is a façade. I have a collection of sex jokes, which I hope will be published posthumously.
  • You are being dishonest if you are not writing about sex in your book. It is very natural and normal. Well, I have earned the name of 'dirty old man' but there is not much sex in my books. What I have written is very serious stuff - biography, history, religious texts, etc.
  • I am disappointed in him. He was an able and clean man. I supported him initially. After 1984, Sikhs did not want to vote for Congress. I put forward his name. He came to thank me. But when he was the Home Minister, and he came with his bodyguards in tow, during an event, I took the liberty to say, "You sowed the seed of communalism in the country and the country will pay for it." Advani doesn't womanize; such men are dangerous.
  • I supported her [Indira Gandhi] when I thought she was right in imposing the emergency. With some reservations, I supported the Emergency proclaimed by Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975. Let me explain why. I concede that the right to protest is integral to democracy. You can have public meetings to criticize or condemn government actions. You can take out processions, call for strikes and closure of businesses. But there must not be any coercion or violence. If there is any, it is the duty of the government to suppress it by force, if necessary.
  • But when she curbed the freedom of press during the emergency, I withdrew my support. Indira Gandhi had the habit of snubbing whoever opposed her. She was waiting for a chance to snub me. I never gave her the chance as I never met her after that.
    • On Indira Gandhi

“We've Had So Many Donkeys as PM" edit

“We've Had So Many Donkeys as PM". India Today. Retrieved on 21 December 2013.

  • My mind is no dirtier than most men's. I am honest and I say it. Fantasising is a common phenomenon and there's no censorship here.
  • I've always been indifferent to dressing. Amita Malik got it right when she put me among the worst dressed men in India. But yes, I am a born joker.
  • No, love is an ephemeral and illusive concept, it doesn't last; lust lasts.
    • On being asked, "Have you ever been in love?"
  • Very important. A sense of belonging, and that's why I gave up the Padma Bhushan after Operation Bluestar. I was the only Indian to criticise Bhindranwale. I called him a homicidal maniac when I was in The Hindustan Times. And he threatened to finish us all. And then I had all this security for 15 years. They've all gone now. Nobody wants to kill me anymore.
    • On his adherence to Sikhism.

'I Don't Know One Editor In India Who Is Well-Read' edit

'I Don't Know One Editor In India Who Is Well-Read'. Outlook India. Retrieved on 21 December 2013.

  • I’ve no patience with Hindi films. I find them so unreal. But some I was taken to, like Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram.
    • Reply to Raj Kapoor who had asked him loudly "I’m a bosom man. What about you?"
  • Yes, in fact I was almost single-handed in protesting about holding the prisoners of war. It was largely on the pressure of Mujibur Rahman that Mrs Gandhi was holding them. Because she obviously recognised Bangladesh and his (Mujibur's) stand was clear: Let them recognise Bangladesh as an independent state and then we will free them. And that's what we did later.
  • I don't think so. I don't think any editor can make a difference to a daily paper because more than half, even three quarters is wire material and from correspondents in different places all over the country. And foreign news. And really the only thing the editor has is writing the editorials.
  • Well, my faith--if there is any, because I am an agnostic--I have faith in good people which I think is all that one can do. The principle I tried to follow is: Try not to lie, because then you tie yourself up in knots; you have to follow it up with other lies. The only religion I subscribe to is the one word--ahimsa--try not to hurt.
  • In a public figure, if he tries to put himself out as a man of great virtue then it is justified in exposing him. If he has a little mistress tucked away or frequents massage parlours, then it's his business. But if he in addition preaches morality then I think he should be exposed.
  • ...but religion I think should be completely separated (from journalism). I have no grievance against people who believe in God, go to places of worship and waste a lot of time in prayer. It's their business, if they get something out of it, they are welcome. But institutionalised religion is a breeding ground for prejudice and hatred without exception and therefore I have very little use for it and I criticise insitutionalising religion and fatwas and hukumnamas and things like that. I think they should be banned if the government has the courage to say: mind your own business and don't stick your nose into things that don't concern you strictly.That is possible in the kind of society we have in India.
  • I write what I believe in and don't care a damn about the consequences.
  • I think humour can be a very lethal weapon.You make somebody a laughing stock and you kill him. But most journalists don't do it. They get angry, which doesn't serve the purpose.
    • On Humour.

Khushwant Singh releases his last book edit

Khushwant Singh's Autographed Card

"Khushwant Singh releases his last book". IBN Live. 3 January 2011. Retrieved on 21 December 2013. 

  • I have to teach myself to do nothing. In the last phase of a man's life, according to the Hindu tradition, you're meant to be a forest dweller.
  • I am trying hardest to see no one, because I find it tiresome. I have people descending on me and flattering me. I fall for flattery.
  • I couldn't give a damn, [he said]. Writing is where I succeeded. I was a flop in everything else.

About Khushwant Singh edit

  • Penguin Books India has had a long and wonderful association with Khushwant Singh. He has delighted generations of readers, and we are immensely proud to present 'Khushwantnama: The Lessons of My Life' on his 98th birthday,"
  • In this eclectic and deeply personal collection, India’s grand old man of letters brings together precepts, prayers and practical advice by prophets, poets and philosophers, and his favourite passages from the seminal texts of the world’s major faiths. The Bible and the Granth Sahib speak to us from these pages, as do the Quran and the Vedas. The songs of mystics and saints like Kabir, Rumi and Teresa of vila mix with the verse of poets like Ghalib, Tagore and Keats. In the final section of "The Freethinker’s Prayer Book by Khushwant Singh", he shares some of his own life codes and those of the rebels and mavericks he most admires.
    • Quoted in "The Freethinker’s Prayer Book by Khushwant Singh – Advance Book Review".
  • At long last, shortly before he would turn 100, Khushwant Singh has gone. India loses a pleasant writer and frequently humorous political and social commentator. He was a forthright spokesman of the Nehruvian English-speaking elite, at one time even the direct press chief of Jawaharlal Nehru himself... But he had the virtue of being able to take a laugh at himself, much in contrast to the pompousness and self-importance of most secularists.
  • Another expression of this tendency is the induction of Muslim divines into Sikh history, e.g. the by now widespread story that the foundation stone of the Hari Mandir was laid by the Sufi pîr Mian Mir. After this story was repeated again and again in his weekly column by Khushwant Singh, Sita Ram Goel wrote a detailed survey of the oldest and modernst sources pertaining to the construction of the Hari Mandir, found no trace of Mian Mir there, and concluded: "I request you to ... stop propping up a blatant forgery simply because it has become popular and is being patronised by those who control the neo-Sikh establishment." Khushwant Singh never mentioned Mian Mir again.
    • Sita Ram Goel: "Only the truth is sacred?. Sunday Observer, 2-4-1995. Cite in K. Elst, Who is a Hindu (2002)

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