Today, Khushwant Singh is special, more because of 95 eventful years that he has been witness to and part of. There are not many who reach that age. And even if they do they are not as opinionated and articulate. He is also an insight into how we look back at life when we have seen a lot of it. We are prone to more honesty and are probably above the reaction or responses that our words may generate. Absolute Khushwant is a quick book on reflections that Khushwant Singh has on various aspects of his life. And on people whom he met on the way and made an impression on him.
The small chapters just say the gist of what he has to say without getting into any elaborations or explanations. Randomly he talks about himself, his roots, his family, his views and beliefs, his insecurities, his love and marriage, his worries, his work and his religion. He tells that most of what he has portrayed about himself had been a work of his fantasies. He talks about his wife, whom most people thought to be non-existent. And his relationship with her and the fact that they were married for more than 60 years.
Though he has always claimed to be an agnostic, he comes across strongly as a Sikh first. And anything else later. His pain at the operation blue star is very obvious. And he still carries it. He enjoys counting how many Sikhs are in a position of power. And feels good when Harbhajan plays a good game. He is upset when his son cut his hair. He has translated various Sikh scriptures into English and has been well received. Interestingly, he says if he had to choose a religion, he would choose Jainism, as it is closest to being an agnostic. This makes me think if we can ever be free from the bondage of our birth? No matter what we do, how much we achieve, our birthplace and the community in which we are born always give us a sense of true belongingness.
He voices his strong opinion on the various political leaders of the country over the ages from Mahatma Gandhi to Varun Gandhi. His personal biases and opinions are apparent, as he measures people to an extent by what they have done for him. His dislike for the right-wing politicians has been repeatedly voiced, just like his identification with Muslims as another minority community like Sikhs.
The best chapter in this book Absolute Khushwant is on Happiness, where he gives tenets for happiness. Simple and profound is how I can read them. Have good health, have a decent amount of money, live in your own home, have a compatible companion. Have no envy for those ahead of you, do not waste time, have a hobby or two, manage your anger and learn to enjoy your solitude. There is nothing new about it, you would have read it at least hundred times. But when it comes from someone who has lived so long, you tend to take it more seriously. I was inspired to follow what he said.
A very quick read that would still leave you thinking.
Buy this book – Absolute Khushwant by Khushwant Singh & Humra Quraishi at Amazon India.
Read more reviews of Khushwant Singh’s books: