Life with Dad – Rahul Singh on Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh was best known for his trenchant secularism, his humour, and an abiding love of poetry. But how was he as a father? Rahul Singh shares reminscences about life with his famous father
 
Renowned journalist Khushwant Singh passed away recently, just after he started his 100th year. The family moved from Lahore in Pakistan, after the partition riots. Khushwant Singh, a barrister, who obtained a law degree from London used to practice law at that time, but gave up after moving to New Delhi and joined the diplomatic service. But after several international assignments  and a stint in All India Radio, he turned to jounralism and writing.  In this interview, his journalist son Rahul Singh, reminscences about life with his famous father with Harsh A Desai.
 
Harsh A Desai (HAD): Rahul, Khushwant passed away recently at age of 99. He changed several jobs lived in several countries including England, France and Canada. Can you tell me what that was like? 
Rahul Singh (RS): Well living in many countries including India, Pakistan and three you have mentioned was disruptive but very fulfilling. My dad was a great believer in children being independent and even at the age of seven I used to go alone to school by tube in London and I used to distribute newspapers to earn some pocket money. It was also fulfilling that you met children with different backgrounds and it helped build character and you learned about different cultures. I also went to Doon School for a few years but did not like that. Unusual things happened to me. I started losing my English when I started studying in a French Lycee in Paris and my father had to hire an English tutor for me.  
                                                 
HAD: Your Dad was a very frank person and sometimes very blunt. What was he like in private life?
RS: He was far more conservative than what people think. He was liberal to the children of his friends but he was far more conservative where his family was concerned. He was a strict disciplinarian with his family. I remember an occasion before I went to Cambridge a group of us had gone to a party and were supposed to return by ten o’clock. But the party went on and on the parents of a girl in our group kept calling our home. My father gave me a big dressing down when I came home. Dad was very conscious of honour and keeping up appearances. 
 
Dad was very keen on nature. We used to go to Kausali and he loved the birds and the trees and he used to be part of bird watchers society in Delhi and i used to go out bird watching with him. Believe it or not, he and I used to go on shooting expeditions those days in Delhi and shot rabbits , partridge, wild boar and deer. This was in our young days, but it stopped later. Dad loved walking; he used to walk from Shimla to Kausali and Kausali to Kalka, a distance of more than 70 kms. He played tennis till he was 85 with friends at the Delhi Gymkhana.                                   
 
HAD: Tell me about his Lahore days. As a lawyer, he seems to have become disenchanted with the law and lawyering. Is it true that his mother thought he would make a good lawyer because he was argumentative?
RS:  Dad was basically a very straight and honest person. One of the people he admired till the very end was Mahatma Gandhi, who was completely honest and would reveal himself to anybody. The other person he admired greatly was Mother Theresa. He admired people who gave to society.Though Gandhi was also a lawyer, dad’s experience as a lawyer was very negative. He did not think that lawyers were serving society, they were out just to make money and he became disillusioned with it. Also, he was not successful. He did not get many briefs and he admitted that he lived off his father, who bought him a house in Lahore and supported him. That is when he decided that he would start out on his own and joined the diplomatic service, but he got disillusioned with that also. I was too young to remember about his law days because he stopped being a lawyer when I was seven.
 
HAD: I hear that Mohammed Ali Jinnah had offered him judgeship if he returned to Pakistan?
RS:  He may have been tempted but he did not take up the offer. The person he admired immensely and who is a very good friend was the person called Mansoor Kadir – an outstanding and straight lawyer. Dad always said, when he was in a dilemma he would go to Mansoor Kadir and ask him what to do. The partition embittered many people against Pakistan but that never happened to Dad and he was actually very fond of Pakistan and Pakistanis .
 
HAD: What was his relationship with his father who was a legendary builder and among other things was responsible for building South Block in Delhi?
RS: His relationship with his father was very formal. They did not confide in each other; actually his father was closer to my mother.
 
HAD: Your father became the legendary editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India. Did his fame cast a long shadow on your career in journalism though you did pretty well yourself ?
RS: Not really. By the time he joined the Illustrated Weekly of India, I had been assistant editor in The Times of India for five years. To avoid any conflict of  interest, I left the Times to become Editor of the Readers Digest. I had quite a fulfilling career of my own and became the Editor of the Indian Express in Mumbai and The Sunday Observer among others so there was no shadow so to speak.
 
HAD: Did his decision to support Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi during the emergency cause any conflict between you and him?
RS: The whole family was critical of him but he tends to get emotionally involved and was politically naive. He acted from his heart and genuinely believed that Sanjay Gandhi was trying to improve the country. My mother, my sister and I were all unhappy and I had to convince the Readers Digest of India to remain in India because every article was being censored by the government.  I don’t think the Illustrated weekly was being censored as it was not a political magazine but he did convey to the Prime minister that censorship was wrong. I believe that the Prime minister Morarji Desai put pressure on the owners of the illustrated weekly not to renew his contract after the emergency. Mr Ram Tarneja suddenly told him that he should resign one next day because it was  believed that he was going to write an editorial.  
 
HAD: I was told that you created quiet a stir when you cut off your hair and your beard so much so that your father removed all your photographs from his house.
RS: I and my sister Mala did not have a religious upbringing and Dad, although he was agnostic, held the symbols of Sikhism close to his heart. When I first decided to cut my hair, I was dissuaded by my mother. She told me that there would be a big controversy because my father was writing the history of Sikhs and the conservative Sikhs were already opposed to my father writing it. But in 1968 when I turned 28 and was in England I had a rash on my neck and my doctor told me it was caused by the sweat from my turban. So I went to Vidal Sassoon and he lopped off my hair. It was the first time he did it. My mother was very upset and my Dad when he saw me told me to put on my turban.
 
HAD: I am told your grandfather was so upset that he wrote you out of his will .
RS: Actually not. My grandfather left the family house in Janpath to me but when the Will was read out my Grandma was very shocked and my father relinquished the bequest on my behalf.
 
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)
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    COMMENTS

    Alan Horowitz

    6 years ago

    excellent article/ thanks

    Alan Horowitz

    6 years ago

    excellent article/ thanks/

    Rajinikanth @superstarrajini sets Twitter on fire!

    One tweet and thousands of followers, that is the magic of Superstar Rajinikanth on Twitter

    He came, he saw and his tweet spread like a wild fire. Well that is the story of one of India’s most influential and bankable movie stars, Rajinikanth, whose mass popularity and appeal is largely drawn from his mannerisms and stylized dialogue delivery.

     

    Rajinikanth on Monday made his debut on Twitter with a handle @superstarrajini and with just one tweet, "Salutation to the Lord. Vanakkam anaivarukkum !! A big thank you to all my fans. Excited on this digital journey", is being followed by over 30,000 people and the numbers are increasing at phenomenal speed matched only by Rajini Sir!

     

    "I decided to start with Twitter because I felt that the platform is abuzz with all the news and the trends that happen across the globe and I'm told that this is where all the best Rajini one liners are!” the super star said.

     


    A cultural icon, the normally reticent superstar is looking forward to interacting with his fans on the platform. “I have always believed that my career graph is a miracle I owe my fans. I have been contemplating joining the social media platform for a while to connect with them, hear what they have to say and share my thoughts. Unfortunately I never got around to it until now. By partnering with Fluence I am confident that I have the best team and the best guides who will help me connect with my audience” said the Superstar.

     


    CA Media Digital’s first venture, Fluence - Indian celebrity digital network, will be managing Rajinikanth’s digital interests, to further create and leverage the Thalaivar’s social presence.

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    Gulzar to be honoured with Dadasaheb Phalke Award

    Veteran lyricist, filmmaker and renowned Indian poet, Gulzar is nominated for the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2013

    Gulzar, one of the veteran lyricist, filmmaker and poets will be honoured with the Dadsaheb Phalke award, India’s highest award in cinema given annually by the union government.

    Dadasaheb Phalke Award is India’s highest award in cinema given annually by the Indian Government for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema. Some of the acclaimed award recipients include, Prithviraj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Satyajit Ray, Dev Anand, Lata Mangeshkar, BR Chopra, Sivaji Ganesan, Asha Bhosale and Pran among others.

    Sampooran Singh Kalra, who is popularly known by his penname Gulzar had earlier won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Jai Ho" (shared with AR Rahman), for Slumdog Millionaire, at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009. He also won a Grammy Awards for the same song in 2010. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2004 and the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002.

    The 79-year old writer, director has won as many as 20 Filmfare awards in total. He is also the winner of a number of National Film Awards. He is also the record holder for winning the most number of “Filmfare award for best lyricist” and “Filmfare Award for Best Dialogue”.

    Gulzar started his film career as a lyricist, with the song "Mora Gora Ang Layle". He has since then written dialogues and lyrics for more than 100 movies, as well as directed more than 20 movies in Bollywood. He has also created a new type of poem known as Triveni. He has been associated with some of the other famous music directors like SD Burman, Salil Chowdhury, RD Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Madan Mohan, Rajesh Roshan, AR Rahman, Vishal Bharadwaj, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and many more.

    Gulzar has also directed critically-acclaimed Hindi films such as, 'Mere Apne', 'Parichay', 'Koshish' and 'Andhi', among others.

    Gulzar's Aandhi, based on the Hindi novel "Kaali Aandhi" by Kamleshwar, told a story of a couple separated against the backdrop of politics. Along with various wins and nominations, the film also won Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie. Although believed to be based on the life of Ex-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the film was based on life of Tarkeshwari Sinha.

    Gulzar's poetry is partly published in three compilations: Chand Pukhraaj Ka, Raat Pashminey Ki and Pandrah Paanch Pachattar (15-05-75). His short stories are published in Raavi-paar (also known as Dustkhat in Pakistan) and Dhuan (smoke).

    Along with lyrics, he has also contributed in many films as script, story and dialogue writer. He also had worked on small screen by creating series Mirza Ghalib and Tahreer Munshi Premchand ki among others. He wrote lyrics for several serials on Doordarshan including Hello Zindagi, Potli Baba ki and Jungle Book.

    Gulzar holds the record of winning the maximum number of Filmfare Awards for Best Lyricist (11 in total) as well as Filmfare Awards for Best Dialogue (4 in total). He was also awarded the 2012 Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.

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