Noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh's sharp sarcasm, biting humour, unsparing secularism and his undying love for verses places him in a unique niche. A jack of all literary forms, his works spanned a vast range from the scholarly to the plain bawdy. He served as the editor of several magazines and two broadsheet newspapers, in the 1970s and 1980s.
The maverick writer's best works are not esay to pick. Though this list reflect personal choices and biases, nevertheless, not many would disgaree with our compliation of the essential Khushwant Singh reading. You may get your hands on some of these literary gems to know the much-maligned but mercilessly honest Khushwant Singh.
Train to Pakistan
A classic on the tragic Partition. A story from a different perspective, depicting the Partition from a human dimension with deep local focus, creating awe, horror and credibility. The novel is set in Mano Majra, a village on the Indo-Pak border in the summer of 1947, but the Sikhs and Muslims are indifferent to partition. The murder of a money-lender creates suspicion upon Juggut Singh, the gangster who loves a Muslim girl. When a train arrives, carrying the bodies of dead Sikhs, the village becomes a battlefield, and none is able to check the violence. Juggut Singh, is caught between loyalties but has to redeem himself and also bring back peace to his village.
Why I Supported The Emergency
Essays on India's Emergency and why he supported the move. The book is a compilation of the profiles of Indira Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah, J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy, poets, writers, and even Phoolan Devi.
The book criticizes the suspension of democratic norms that lead to the Emergency. The author analyses the events of the times in his own, unique way.
Delhi: A Novel
An autobiographical piece. The narrative voice is the author himself, who moves back and forth in time. It explores the unconventional relationship between the narrator and a hijra (eunuch) called Bhagmati. This erotic piece starts with the narrator taking Bhagmati under his wings from a Delhi road. Bhagmati influences him greatly and goes on to save him from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Singh shows his trademark gift of a professional historian and the tragic deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi are recollected here.
I Shall Never Hear A Nightangle
Set in British India, this one is about a magistrate loyal to Britishers and his patriot son, who believes in driving out the British. A brutal murder rocks the father-son and the wife-husband equations. Buta Singh, a shrewd official working with the British, is the antagonist pitted against his son Sher Singh, an ambitious son driven to rebellion against the foreign master.
The novel shows the religious tension and strife during the colonial times.
The Portrait of a Lady: Collected Stories
Collection of Khushwant Singh's short stories. His stories are modest, restrained and well-crafted. His human and poignant pieces are testimony to Singh's emotional range and the ability to create an unforgettable world.