Khushwant Singh, grand old man of Indian literature dies

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NEW DELHI: Writer, journalist, one of India’s best known satirists, Khushwant Singh, died on Thursday. Singh, known for his witty, fearless and acerbic writings, died quietly in his 100th year at his New Delhi home.

He is survived by son Rahul and daughter Mala.

He was cremated on the same day.

A recipient of Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour, Khushwant Singh authored some classics like “Train to Pakistan”, “I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale”, “A History of the Sikhs”, “The Company of Women” and “Delhi”, and has written over 30 novels, many short stories, essays and countless commentaries.

He was a lawyer-turned-diplomat-turned-writer. His autobiography, “Truth, Love and a Little Malice”, was published by Penguin Books in 2002.

He was editor of several literary and news magazines, including the Illustrated Weekly of India as well as two newspapers, the Hindustan Times and the National Herald, through the 1970s and 1980s.

He was close to former prime minister Indira Gandhi but then fell out with her over her imposition of press censorship during her emergency rule 1975-77. The relationship further soured after he became close to estranged daughter-in-law Maneka Gandhi, whom he mentored for some time.

In 1974, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, but he returned the award in 1984 in protest against the army siege of the Golden Temple of the Sikhs in Amritsar.

His son Rahul Singh, a journalist and writer, said the author had stopped writing a few weeks back, but he was reading papers every morning.

“He was alert mentally till the very end,” Rahul said.

“He passed away very peacefully, led a very full life,” he added.

Born in Hadali, now in Pakistan, he had, among others, served as the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, where his column, “With malice towards one and all”, flagged with the bulb symbol with his caricature inside, made him an iconic figure. He was also editor of The Hindustan Times and National Herald.

He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1986. TRANS ASIA NEWS

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