Name: On India - Khushwant Singh,
Edited: Mala Dayal
Price: Rs 191
Khushwant Singh has written on a variety of issues in his very long career as a journalist and an author. A collection of writings penned by this versatile author on issues related to India and her major cities titled On India has been published recently. The book has been edited by Singh’s daughter, Mala Dayal.
Singh shot to fame when he took over as editor of, The Illustrated Weekly of India and increased the circulation of this otherwise family newspaper, manifold. He used the most non-conventional methods to reach out to the wider sections of readers. His syndicated weekly column, With malice towards one and all was one of the most popular writings in those days when periodicals like weeklies and monthlies had wider readership.
Singh’s writings selected in this book were published in the period from 1969 to 2011. And yet they are most relevant even today. For example, he writes: “Racial, linguistic and religious divisions are older and therefore, more deeply embedded in the Indian mind than the sense of Indianness. Even in a large city like Delhi, I have never heard anyone describe himself as an Indian...A legitimate sense of pride that though we started our career as an independent nation with many handicaps, we have not done too badly. Our green revolution has made us self-sufficient in food. We are among the leading nations harnessing atomic energy for industry. And above all, we are the world’s largest democracy and our people (including women) enjoy a measure of political freedom unknown to any other developing country of the nation.” This was written in 1982 and still holds good.
The books has Singh’s articles on Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai (Madras) and Kolkata. Notwithstanding their several drawbacks, the author has special love for Delhi and Mumbai.
“If there are seven reasons for loving Delhi, there are more than seventy reasons for hating it. They can be summed up in three words: nothing really works... But you soon get used to the noise and the dirt and the frequent breakdowns in essential services. That’s the magic of Delhi,” he says.
About Mumbai, he writes: “All said and done, Bombay is the most enjoyable city in India — if you can find a place to live in.”
In an article on VIP culture and the importance of being important, Singh has in his inimitable, humorous style, written how people take pride in being ‘important’.
The book makes for an interesting reading as it displays many facets of the author’s versatile personality — his wit and humour, his identity as a research scholar, critic of fundamentalism and anti-social practices like corruption.
Most articles are almost like snippets but are heavily loaded with strong messages on social life.