Khushwant Singh, noted author and journalist, dies at 99

Khushwant Singh

Noted author and journalist Khushwant Singh, one of the finest Indian writers in English in contemporary times, died here on Thursday at the age of 99.

The veteran writer, who was ill and had faded from public life, passed away “very, very peacefully”, his son Rahul Singh, also a journalist said on his demise.

Son of Sir Sobha Singh, a civil contractor and a prominent builder of Lutyens’ Delhi, Khushwant Singh lived in Sujan Singh Park built by his father where he breathed his last.

He led a very full life, Rahul said, adding, he had some breathing problems but was mentally alert till the end.

As a journalist he had edited the now defunct Illustrated Weekly of India (1979-1980) and later the Hindustan Times (1980-83). His weekly column ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ was very popular and was syndicated in many dailies. He was also founder-editor of Yojana magazine (1951-1953).

Singh, an outstanding novelist and a forthright political commentator, was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the government under late Indira Gandhi. He was a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 but returned the decoration in 1984 in protest against the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Army. In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.

Known for his humour, Singh took lots of digs at his community. His works ranged from political commentary and contemporary satire to outstanding translations of Sikh religious texts, Urdu poetry and a number of novels.

Born in 1915 in Hadali (now in Pakistan), Singh had done his schooling at Modern School in Delhi and later studied at St Stephen’s College here before moving to the Government College in Lahore. He also studied at King’s College in Cambridge University. He practiced law at the Lahore High Court for several years before joining the Ministry of External Affairs in 1947.

He had married Kawal Malik in 1939 and has son Rahul and daughter Mala. Malik had died in 2001.

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