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Noted author and journalist Khushwant Singh dies at 99

Last updated on: March 20, 2014 19:36 IST

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

The veteran writer, who was ill, passed away "very, very peacefully", his son Rahul Singh said.

Son of Sir Sobha Singh, a civil contractor and a prominent builder of Lutyens' Delhi, Khushwant Singh lived in Sujan Singh Park.

He led a very full life, Rahul said, adding that 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 the founder-editor of Yojana magazine (1951-1953).

Singh, an outstanding novelist and a forthright political commentator, was nominated to the 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 in Delhi 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 is survived by son Rahul and daughter Mala.

Malik had died in 2001.

Singh had worked on a classic two-volume history of the Sikhs, a number of translations and non-fiction books on a variety of subjects including nature, current affairs and Urdu poetry.

At 95, Singh had authored the novel The Sunset Club.

His autobiography, Truth, Love and a Little Malice, was published in 2002.

His short story collection includes The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, Black Jasmine, The Portrait of a Lady and A Love Affair In London.

Singh was known to enjoy a good equation with former prime minister Indira Gandhi and even supported the Emergency she had clamped between 1975 and 1977.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the passing away of the author, describing him as "a gifted author, candid commentator and a dear friend who lived a truly creative life."

Image: Khushwant Singh 


Photograph: Reuters

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