Kids Corner


Khushwant Singh:
A Tribute -
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee





I preface this column with a disclaimer. Some people who are as inspired by the late Khushwant Singh as I am, may take exception to this kind of tribute, but we benefit differently from the lives of great people, which is a good thing.

There is an old saying, “No two people have ever read the same book!”

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A Posthumous “Postcard” From A Great Sardar

Piare Fateh ji:

I hear the Republicans in America have promoted, but not implemented, simplified tax returns on postcards. I have always sent postcards!

I left this world after a long and, I think, productive life. I almost made it to a full one hundred years. However, I always knew that my life was not to be measured by the number of years, or by the number of breaths we take, but by the ability to distinguish between those things to be taken seriously and those things that should be laughed at.

I know you have always admired my writing as well as the moral courage I have shown with regard to Indian politics, world affairs, and other matters. You were particularly inspired by my harsh criticism of hypocrisy wherever I found it. When you interpret political and religious extremism as the ultimate forms of hypocrisy, I believe you are correct.

Some things I have done I would definitely define as work. Writing, on the other hand, was never work for me because whenever I did it I would not have preferred doing something else.

I know my historical novel, ‘Train to Pakistan‘, was one of the things that stimulated your interest in Sikhi. I get the impression that given the influence that my novel has had on you, that you think of me now in some sort of transitional state – even a train station on my way to my next destination – you may be right!

You always questioned my doubts about whether or not there was a God, but you praised my honesty in discussing these doubts. Well, you were right and I was wrong – there is a God! I have often been described as an “unrepentant agnostic,” but I am now “repentant!” Yes, I always wanted to find proof of God and in my life there was fragmentary evidence here and there.

I was even caught at times saying things like (in an essay dealing with why I am an Indian, that I had no choice but to be born there): “If the good Lord had consulted me on the subject I might have chosen a country more affluent, less crowded, less censorious in matters of food and drink, unconcerned with personal equations and free of religious bigotry.”

I admit to having referred to “the good Lord!”

Toward the end of my life, I took great comfort in the Urdu poetry of Ghalib and Zauq:

“The baggage has left already. I too am ready to leave.”

And: “He faces death with a smile.”

God is currently reviewing the balance sheet of my karams to establish my next chapter. One penalty in my next life is that I must live it as a teetotaler. No Scotch whiskey for me! One of the rewards I shall always have, of course, is to continue to influence and inspire you and countless others, not only in terms of writing but in terms of living life in general. I take much comfort in believing that to live in the hearts of those I left behind is not to have died at all.

After the tragic events of 1984, especially Operation Blue Star, I returned my Padma Bhushan award in protest against the Indian government. I said that I felt that I was a refugee in my own country.

I know you have no awards comparable to mine, but I also I know you feel that very same way today in your America: a foreigner.

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January 3, 2018


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A Tribute -
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee"

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