Obituaries: Death at My Doorstep
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For Khushwant Singh who wrote his own obituary in his twenties, death is not sacred but he reflects on it increasingly these days. In Death At My Doorstep, a collection of obituaries written over the years, he presents the dead in death, as in life – good, bad or ugly. Be it on the twilight hours of Bhutto, the gory end of Sanjay Gandhi, the overbearing Lord Mountbatten, or on his pet Alsatian Simba, each obituary bears out his irreverence or affection. Cocking a snook at death, he has also penned his own epitaph. Yet outliving those whom he admired has moved him to tears, and many of his obituaries have left the reader with a heavy heart. While Death At My Doorstep is Khushwant Singh's demystification of death, it also ferries his message to Badey Mian, in the words of Allama Iqbal:
Baagh-e-bahisht say mujhay hukm-e-safar diya thha kyon? Kaar-e-Jahaan daraaz hai, ab meyra intazaar kar.
(Why did you order me out of the garden of paradise? I have a lot of work that remains unfulfilled; now you better wait for me.)



Publié par
Date de parution 01 décembre 2009
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9788194566137
Langue English

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Khushwant Singh (1915-2014) was born in Hadali in pre-Partition Punjab. Educated at Government College, Lahore, and at King’s College and the Inner Temple in London, he practised at the Lahore High Court for a few years. In 1947, he joined the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. Diplomatic postings took him to England and Canada. This was followed by a stint at the UNESCO in Paris that he cut short to return to India. In 1951, he embarked on his career as a journalist with All India Radio.
A much-revered journalist and columnist, Khushwant Singh was an accomplished historian ( History of the Sikhs , Vols. I & II), and an award-winning novelist ( Train to Pakistan , Grove Press Award, 1954). His vast oeuvre included translations, joke books, books on Delhi, women, nature and current affairs. Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974, Khushwant Singh returned the decoration in 1984 to register his protest against Operation Bluestar—the Union Government’s siege of the Golden Temple.
Khushwant Singh was a member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986.
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whose letters sustained
my spirits in my later years
Part 1: on death and dying
The Dalai Lama on Death
Fear of Dying: Acharya Rajneesh
Have You Ever Thought of Death?
Be Prepared
On the Hit List
Nearing Death: Old Age
Death as a Houseguest
Experience of Death
Learning from the Dead
Life After Death
Coping with the Death of a Loved One
Part 2: after life
Z.A. Bhutto: From the Death Sentence to the Gallows
Sanjay Gandhi: Young Dictator
Tikka Khan: ‘Butcher of Bangladesh’
M.O. Mathai: Nehru’s Nemesis
Mountbatten: Lord of Baloney
Rajni Patel: Marxist Millionaire
Gurcharan Singh Tohra: Be-Taaj Badshah
Dhiren Bhagat: Gone at 30
Prabha Dutt: Boss’s Boss
Hardayal: A Tribute to the Great Revolutionary
RGK: Paradigm of Self-effacement
Remembering Mulk, the Pioneer
The One and Only Nirad Babu
Balwant Gargi: The Naked Triangle Fetched Him More Foes Than Friends
R.K. Narayan: Malgudi No More
Ali Sardar Jafri: The Poetry of Burning
Faiz Ahmed Faiz: Marxist, Lover and Poet
G.S. Fraser: Poetry of the Adi Granth
A Requiem to Domsky
Kishan Lal: Poetry with Dahi Bhallas
Yogi Bhajan: Khalsa Flag at Half Mast
Protima Bedi: She Had a Lust for Life
Nargis Dutt: Mother India
Amrita Shergil: Femme Fatale
Chetan Anand: On Losing a Friend
Dharma Kumar: Women Like Her Do Not Die...
P.C. Lal: Air Chief Marshal (1917-1984)
Jack Wilberforce Burke Peel: My English Bhai
Manzur Qadir: The Role Model
Knowing Bhisham Sahni
The Palam Air Crash: 1973
Penny-pinching Zinkin
Daadimaa: The Portrait of a Lady
Chajjoo Ram of Raj Villa
Simba: Family Favourite
T he idea of putting together a book on obituaries was suggested by Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books. It appealed to me immensely, and after giving it some thought, I decided to name the book Death at My Doorstep : it gave me the opportunity to spell out my views on death and dying which I felt was appropriate for a man in his 90s—besides other people’s obituaries, I could also write my own.
Most of the spadework for Death at My Doorstep was done by Dipa Chaudhuri of Roli Books. She painstakingly went through a considerable body of my writings including past issues of The Illustrated Weekly of India, New Delhi, The Hindustan Times and The Tribune, as well as my collection of short stories The Mark of Vishnu (Saturn Press and Ravi Dayal), where some of these pieces had first appeared, and selected what she liked. But for her this book would not have seen the light of day.
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
May there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea…
…Twilight and evening bell,
After that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark.
W e do not talk of death lightly—it is regarded as tasteless, illmannered and depressing. This is the wrong way to look upon an essential fact of life which makes no exceptions: It comes to kings as well as beggars, to the rich and the poor, to saints as well as sinners, the aged and the young. You simply cannot turn a blind eye to it and fool yourself into believing that death comes to other people but will spare you. It will not. It is best to prepare yourself for it and when it comes, welcome it with a smile on your lips.
I am now over 90 years old and am aware that the hour of my tryst with destiny is drawing near. I have given a lot of thought to it. Being a rationalist, I do not accept irrational, unproven theories of life-death-rebirth in different forms as an unending process till our beings mingle with God and we attain nirvana. I do not accept the belief that while the body perishes, the soul survives. I do not know what the soul looks like; neither I, nor anyone has seen it. Nor do I accept the Hebrew, Christian and Islamic belief in the Day of Judgement—heaven and hell. I go along with the poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib when he said:

Hum ko maaloom hai Jannat kee haqeeqat leykin,
Dil kay khush rakhney ko Ghalib, yeh khayaal achha hai.

(We know what the reality of paradise is;
but it is not too bad an idea to beguile the mind.)
As far as I am concerned, I accept the finality of death; we do not know what happens to us after we die.
I have put my views as well as those of others on the subject as honestly as I could. I have also added obituaries of people I met—some were well known, others humble non-entities. Many of these were published in the two syndicated columns I have been writing every week for many years: ‘This Above All’ in The Tribune and ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ in The Hindustan Times .
I have never subscribed to the belief that nothing bad should be said about the dead. If people were evil in their lifetimes, death does not convert them into saints. Such falsehoods may be condoned when inscribed on tombstones but not in obituaries which should be without bias, and truthful. I have written lots of obituaries about people I admired and loved; I have also written about people I detested and loathed. I did my best to be as even-handed as I could about all of them. I was accused of maligning people who could not hit back or take me to court for libel. It is true that there are no provisions in our law for friends or relatives of a dead person to take an author to court on a charge of libel unless that libel hurts their reputations. But I have written scathing profiles of eminent men including governors of states. Two of them took me to court and the Press Council. In both cases, the matter was settled by compromise requiring me to say that I did not intend to hurt their feelings—which in fact

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