Doyen of Indian journalism Khushwant Singh dies at 99

20 Mar 2014


Khushwant Singh Tributes have already begun to pour in as noted writer and journalist Khushwant Singh died today at the age of 99.

His avid readers have been missing Khushwant's trenchant columns for a couple of years now, which combined a deep knowledge of Indian culture and tradition with secularism and an earthy wit.

"He was fine till he passed away peacefully at home on Thursday," his daughter Mala Singh said. His cremation will take place at Lodhi Crematorium in Delhi at 4 pm today.

''My father led a complete life. He was not ill but was suffering from some breathing problems,'' his son Rahul Singh, also a sometime journalist, said.

Born on 2 February 1915 at Hadali, now in Pakistan, Khushwant was a product of the partition which created much trauma in India, particularly in the northern parts of the once united country.

Singh wrote novels like Train to Pakistan (later made into a successful TV movie), I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, and Delhi.

He was a lawyer-turned-diplomat who later turned to writing and journalism. Ironically, he was sacked unceremoniously by Bennett, Coleman & Co, the publishers of The Times of India, who will no doubt be the foremost in their obituaries.

The defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, a Bennett, Coleman publication that prospered under his editorship, quickly went into decline and was shut down in 1993 within four years of his departure in a freshly-developing climate where marketers or ad-space sellers take precedence over editors.

Singh's autobiography, Truth, Love and a Little Malice, was published by Penguin Books in 2002.

Apart from the Illustrated Weekly, he was also the editor of several literary and news magazines, as two newspapers, The Hindustan Times and the National Herald, through the 1970s and 1980s. He could well be regarded as the pathfinder for the kind of in-the-face TV journalism that draws so many eyeballs today.

In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, one of India's highest civilian honours.

His last book was The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous. Other works include The History of Sikhs, Black Jasmine, and The Tradition of Punjab.

His popular weekly column 'With Malice Towards One and All' was syndicated in many dailies.

Singh was nominated to Rajya Sabha by the government under late Indira Gandhi. He was the Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986.

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