Who in India hasn’t heard Khushwant Singh’s name? We have grown up reading his stories, sometimes in textbooks and sometimes stories on him by our friends or newspapers. A man with love, truth and a little malice died at the age of 99 in 2014. He was many things but unafraid, honest and courageous are one of the few words which are frequently used to describe him. He wrote Short stories, novels, history books amongst many of his famous works.
His newspaper column was very famous and constantly a reminder of his boldness. Here are some of the books by the notable author you might enjoy:
Train to Pakistan
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh is set in the backdrop of Manimajra, a small village that had both Hindus and Muslims. The book deals with how the peaceful village turns into a battleground where the two communities are thirsty for each other’s blood. It talks in great detail about the circumstances before partition and after partition and how outside elements influence the villagers.
This is one of the most famous works by Khushwant Singh. He has very beautifully described the village and its inhibitors. Khushwant sinh’s genius lies in his detailing of the things. The way he has described the love scenes and fight scenes, the way he has described the village, making it alive in front of the reader’s eyes, both the chaos and the peace is brilliant.
The History of Sikhs
First published in 1963, The History of Sikhs is the most comprehensive book of the history of Sikhs between 1469 to 1839. Written in Khushwant Singh’s unique straight forward style, the book is a best gift to history buffs, it is well researched, detailed and very comprehensive, in short, a joy to read for all those who are interested in unbiased history of Sikhs.
Pro Tip: Don’t let the footnotes and references daunt you and don’t under any circumstances skip them. Read them for they contain more detailed knowledge and stand as proof to Khushwant Singh’s research. Make flow charts and diagrams while reading if you are someone who forgets easily. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.
Khushwantnama was one of the last books I read of Khushwant Singh before he died. I still remember the feel of the embossed hardcover. Khushwantnama: The lessons of my life is serious, funny and lighthearted at the same time.
The book deals with his reflections on life, his poetry, his regrets, food habits, politics, love, retirement and death etc. One of the best things about Khshwant Singh is that he writes what he wants to say. No filtering, no holdbacks, the truth in its rawness… Khushwantnama is one such genius.
Truth, Love and a little Malice
Usually, autobiographies are written in a very defensive tone of one’s mistakes but not Khuswant Singh’s Truth, love and a little Malice is surprisingly candid and thoroughly interesting. Khuswnt Singh is funny, sad, political, emotional and makes you feel a wide range of emotions.
His autobiography deals with everything the writer could touch upon and is a joy to read for the readers and a document of his time on this earth.
I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale
Set in the home of a British magistrate who is loyal to Britishers from his very core to his son who is a young rebel against the British raj, I shall not hear the nightingale is a memoir of crime, sex, love, affection, strife and conflict.
I loved the book for the characterisation of women in the novel among many other things. The portrait of the mother especially encompassed all the character traits of Indian Mothers. To sum it all up, it is easy to say that it is a bittersweet tale of a family grappling with the changes of the demise of the British Raj. A family that had both the pro-British and the anti-British in their homes just like some of the best Irish plays where strife is the main theme.
Delhi: A Novel
Mixing fiction with nonfiction seems to have been tailor-made for Khushwant Singh in his book, Delhi. After staying at foreign shores, the narrator finally comes back to Delhi. His narration passes over some 600 years and the narrator’s love for Bhagmati, a eunuch, metaphysics his love for the city.
Very well written and the very best of Khushwant Singh’s metaphors, Delhi: A novel is witty, humorous and serious at times but most importantly the very best at all times. The novel is evident of Khushwant Singh’s love affair with the city.
Ranjit Singh: Maharaja of the Punjab
This book as the name suggests is a story of Ranjit Singh before he became the Maharaja of Punjab to the time when he was crowned as the Maharaja of Punjab and won battles, wars, and fought with Muslim invaders and British infiltrates. This is a perfect gift by Khushwant Singh to all the history buffs out there.
If you are someone who wants to know juicy details of the Maharaja’s life, you might want to give this book a pass. The book is well researched and evidence laden. But it deals with the story of Ranjit Singh’s story of being a normal ‘misaldar’ to the becoming of Maharaja through his wit and battles. He was the sole ruler who was able to keep the Britishers at bay.
The Sunset Club
The Sunset Club by Khushwant Singh got mixed reviews. You can either hate it or love it. Sometimes, there seems to be no middle ground. The book is about three old men who meet every day at sunset time on a bench in Lodhi gardens. They belong to different religions: One is a Hindu, another Sikh and one Muslim. Singh very beautifully shows the life of all three. Their discussions go all over the place where they talk about crime, politics, love, lust and shit.
The characters talk about themselves, about each other and about the eternal and inescapable truth of being old and everything that entails it. Some people find it disgusting to read but Khushwant Singh very subtly reminds people how everyone is supposed to meet the same end. The only difference is that young people don’t want to see the ultimate truth sometimes.
The Portrait of a Lady: Collected Stories
If you have completed your twelfth grade from India there are huge chances that you have read this story as a part of your curriculum. But the book has more than 30 similar stories written elegantly from the pen of Khushwant Singh.
His short stories are short, witty and have good structured mids and ends. He deals with a lot of characters with amazing depth and talks about arranged marriages and love marriages, government, bureaucracy and stories of in-laws etc. It is a must-read for all those who want their funny bone tickled.
If you enjoyed reading this, Please let me know in the comments section. If you enjoyed some other book by Khushwant Singh, name it in the comments section and we will try to cover it. I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed reading the books.
If you enjoyed this blog, you will also enjoy our blog on Best Books by Indian Authors, here.