Khushwant Singh was a rare and unique combination of a journalist, editor, author, diplomat, historian, prolific writer, novelist, columnist, professor, commentater and speaker. He was the best-known and most widely read columnist and author for more than 60 years in India. His weekly columns written in English...
After studying law and qualifying for Bar at King’s College, London, he started practicing law at Lahore, the capital city of Punjab in early Forties. He also taught law at Law College, Lahore. After the partition of India in 1947, he came to Delhi and did different things at different times. His first job was in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs as a Press Secretary to the Indian High Commissioner, V.K. Krishna Menon in England and later at Toronto High Commission in Canada. He resigned from the Ministry of External Affairs soon. He turned to writing and editing.
Planning Commission was established under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1950. Khushwant Singh was appointed as the founding Chief Editor of Yojana started by the Planning Commission. It was a great success (1951-53).
Khushwant Singh was appointed as the Editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1969. He made it so popular that its circulation increased from 40,000 to 410,000. This made him the most talked about Editor in India. He remained its editor for 10 years till 1979. After he left, its circulation started decreasing sharply. He worked as Editor of Daily “National Heralad”, Delhi for about two years. Khushwant Singh was Editor of the prestigious daily newspaper Hindustan Times published from New Delhi for four years. He also wrote for many European and American newspapers, including the New York Times.
Khushwant Singh had taught Comparative Religion at the university of Princeton and Swarthmore in America. His lectures delivered at these universities were published under the title “Vision of India”.
He wrote a short history of the Sikhs for Allen and Unwin of America. This earned him an offer from the Rockefeller Foundation to do a more definitive work on the same task. The two-volume History of the Sikhs made him recognized as an authority on the subject. He had become a sort of cult figure by this time. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1979 by the President of India. However, he returned it in 1984 to protest against the Indian government’s siege and attack on Akal Takht in the Golden Temple premesis, Amritsar in early June 1984. Khushwant Singh was nominated as a Member of the Rajya Sabha in 1980 by the government of India for six years. Khushwant Singh mostly wrote his lively and popular weekly columns on diverse subjects of people, places, events, religion, crime, sex, women, scandals, politics, etc under the headings “With Malice Towards One and All”, “Gossip: Sweet and Sour” and “This Above All”. They were full of knowledge, wit, humor, and satire. He had the ability to laugh at himself. His jokes evoked a lot of laughter. He wrote in his candid style for his admiring readership. His fans eagerly awaited the next weekly columns. He attended many seminars. He was sometimes called a “seminarist”. He was heard with rapt attention by the audience. There is only one couple in India whose respective fathers were awarded the prestigious title of ‘Sir’ by the British government. Sir Sobha Singh, who built almost half of New Delhi, was the father of Khushwant Singh. Sir Teja Singh Malik, who designed, supervised and approved the New Delhi civil constructions, was the father of Khushwant Singh’s wife Kaval. Khushwant Singh was not very handsome but his wife Kaval was very beautiful. Khushwant Singh was very fond of her. She died in 2001. She was responsible for the implementation of strict routine in Khushwant Singh’s home. No dinner guest could remain in the house after 9pm. The only exception was made for Indira Gandhi.