Aise log ab nahin bante
That was what Kushwant Singh fans felt when they met at Lucknow office of Hindustan Times to pay their tribute to the great Sardar of Indian journalism amidst fond memories of his satire and humour, something which is scarcely available today.
Sharing hilarious anecdotes straight from his life were writer Usha Mahajan and journalist Lakhan Naqvi. While Usha has translated Kushwant’s books, Naqvi had been Lucknow correspondent of HT and later Editor, HT Magazine.
Lakhan in his typical style asked the audience if they wanted to hear the edited or unedited chapters from Singh’s life. And the demand was for an Unedited Kushwant. However, the speakers were unanimous that he was not a womanizer. It were the women who would go crazy for KS instead.
And when the famous bookseller of Lucknow, Ram Advani told the audience that Kushwant and Ruskin Bond till date were the bestsellers, there were none who could doubt his statement.
Following are some of the observations of the speakers at the do:
Usha Mahajan: “He would come to my place for dinner and bring his own scotch along thinking that we will not have drinks to offer. He would have it and take the leftover back home.”
“Not many people know Sardarni ji (wife) dominated the home affairs. I remember he was going out and asked his wife for some money. Sardarniji would not give it right away. Instead he was asked, ‘why he needed the money before he was given the meagre amount.”
“He thought in Punjabi and wrote in English.”
L H Naqvi: “As editor, Kushwant travelled to Jhansi for a story on Phoolan Devi when I was HT’s Lucknow correspondent. I should thank khuda (God) for creating Phoolan Devi and Shaitan( devil) for leading her astray that I got an opportunity to meet and understand Kushwant.”
“He had an Ambassador car painted with ‘Press stickers.’ He would often lend me the car and wherever I’d go people mistook me for Kushwant. This was the time I realised how people did not respect the chair but the people occupying it.”
“We shared an interesting relationship – he was a dirty old man and I was an emerging dirty young man. He would often boast how people from Pakistan visited India either to see Qutab Minar or him.”
“KS mantra for good writing was, ‘Part fact, part exaggeration and part imagination.’ The journalists have not disappointed him.”
Varsha Pandey Mishra read out through the pages of a book by Rahul Singh, his son. ‘ I remember a letter that was written to Kushwant by a Canadian Sardar. The content of the letter was not so relevant but the envelope in which it came was something Kushwant showed to one and all –the address on the envelope was ‘Kushwant Singh Bastard India.’ And the letter reached him.
Remembering Khuswant was such fun that the organisers – Lucknow Expressions and HT — decided to initiate an award for budding authors. Keep following the blog for further info.