Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Truth Love And A Little Malice

Truth Love And A Little Malice
Autobiography : Khushwant Singh
Edition 2002
Publisher: Viking
My Rating : 5 Stars and my best smiley :D

I started reading this book only to overcome an extreme bout of laziness that had struck me in the past few weeks. Not only was I on complete bed rest, I had begun to sleep 14 hours.. Without exaggeration my only activity in the day was perhaps, rolling my eyes (Btw, I'm pretty good at that!) I knew K.Singh primarily as a Sikh writer, and half expected this to be a long history of Sikhism and its teachings, but took it up anyway.

Am I thankful!
This book is
wait for it
dary! (Yes, I have watched 4 seasons of HIMYM in around 4 days!)

Khushwant Singh might sound provocative or controversial to many but maybe thats because he's brutally honest. And face it, truth does bite.

Khushwant Singh was born in 1915 in Hadali, Punjab; educated in Government College, Lahore and Kings College in London. He worked as a lawyer in Lahore, with the Indian Ministry Of External Affairs, as a diplomat in Paris and Canada, and even with UNESCO in Paris.
In the first few chapters of the book, he comes across as a spoilt brat, who was, to put it simply, living off his fathers wealth (They owned more than half of Delhi around the time of Partition and after. Infact, their houses and buildings are the Bhavans and abodes for our politicians and diplomats.)He never really stood out academically, completed his three year law degree in five years, and took to scotch like a fish to water. But it was perhaps his love for traveling and reading, and the brazen confidence to say anything to anyone that unflinching financial and emotional security gives you that saw him through. Also, the courage to leave a conventional profession and take a chance as a writer. But then again, I think he was lucky because he always had something to fall back upon.

The best thing, about him as a writer is that, he spoke and wrote what he really thought, irrespective of the consequences. His take on everyone, from his school friends to the Prime Minister Of India is truly his own and thats what draws one towards his writing.
As an individual, I am still to come to terms with that.. I am not very sure of just how blunt one should be. I can safely say that I don't lie about what I like or don't like, just to make some else feel better; but nor can I say that I just blurt out the first thing that comes to my mind. I have tried that and I'm telling you, its dangerous (when you try and break the 'indomitable' male ego) and potentially explosive (when talking to the 'girl-in-distress'). Either case, you're in trouble before you even think you've begun. So I tend to understand what kind of person I am talking to before I speak too much.If I sense danger, instead of lying, I keep my views to myself. In any case, its better than back-biting or handling crying girls.
Though I still don't know if that's right or wrong.

'The problem with law is that it has very little to do with justice'
I really liked this one liner.

Also, I found it very surprising that despite writing so much on Sikhism and translating parts of the Guru Granth Sahib, he is unequivocally agnostic.
He dares to question the sanctity of blind faith, and the magical powers that we vest into our religious scriptures.

In the words of Iqbal:

Dhoondta phirta hoon main, ai Iqbal, apney aap ko
aap hee goya musaafir, aap hee manzil hoon main

(O Iqbal, I go about everywhere looking for myself
As if I was the wayfarer as well as the destination)

Though I do not quite discard the basis of all religions, and confess to being hopelessly God fearing, I quite agree with the fact, unless superhuman, one cannot be a true athiest. That would be like living in a vacuum, and appears to me, as quite a sterile concept, more like an I-am-educated fad.I am also in awe of his view of incorporating more contemporary 'rituals' in our life.. Like planting a tree,on occasions of birth,death and anniversaries, instead of sprouting scotch fountains; and inculcating a work ethic in the same.

I picked up this amusing saying ascribed to the Sikh trading community from the book:

Jhooth vee aseen bolney aan,
Ghut vee aseen tolney aan,
Par Sachhey Padshaah,
Tera naa vee aseen lainey aan

We admit we tell lies,
We also give short measures,
But O true King Of Kings,
We also take your name.

I recently came across a quote by Bejamin Franklin which said that 'Either write things worth reading or do things worth writing'. I think Khushwant Singh is one of the few people who managed both, in both letter and spirit.


  1. amita..I disagree

    Some choose to be blunt because they know they are the pampered lots of the publishing houses and the social circles.They choose to be blunt because they love living off controversies..If I'm correct, one of the provocative stories of this book made it to India Today before the book was published..so as to kick start the proceedings even before the book's actual release...Good Enough..A bestseller made !!

    I'd rather subscribe to bluntness that comes without a preconceiving .The "irrespective of consequences" phrase is the actual native of this camp.Of course,the consequences are always dire in this case.Even as writers,they adhere to the latter half of Benjamin Franklin's statement u've mentioned.

  2. Yeah I know, maybe its just naivety on my part, but something makes me want to believe his side of the story.
    You're right about the controversy, vaise. Maneka Gandhi took him to court for public defamation. In fact he does say that right after the book was complied, as a marketing strategy, his publisher sent a few chapters to different magazines for early reviews.That's when she sued him.The publishing got delayed by 5 years because of this.
    It could be hogwash, but that would be the worst thing to do to ones autobiography, don't you think? He was already 80 years and didn't know if he would live long enough to see it in the market.Besides he had all the money in the world.
    But then, I guess one really can't say.

  3. No No.Nothing like naivety.It was just my personal opinion.. i must say that i havent read the book..Its his HT columns and certain other writers of his leagues that make me opine this.

  4. Must be an enjoyable read Truth, Love and a Little Malice by Khushwant Singh . loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you like it.


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