The Irreverent Muse

Stuti Kuthiala

By Khushwant Singh
Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, Year 2017, PP.214, Rs.288


Compiled and edited by Khushwant Singh’s daughter, writer/publisher Mala Dayal, Me, The Jokerman, is a selection of his writings that appeared periodically over the years in the columns of nationally acclaimed newspapers and magazines such as The Hindustan Times, The Illustrated Weekly of India and The Tribune. These had made him a household name for his vigorous wit and sharp, analytical point of view. Singh never demurred from saying it as it was, or as he saw it was, and this assemblage of over fifty of his essays, most of them as yet unpublished in book form, are an example of his honesty, courage, humour and style. The issues that he chose to write about ranged from politics to people, religion to sex, the natural world and its benign creatures to man and his beastly nature. The sub-title Enthusiasms, Rants And Obsessions provides ample room for any and all ruminations the prolific writer may have wanted to explore. The title of the book is somewhat misleading and gives in to the common perception of Singh as a teller of risqué jokes and a writer of lascivious content, tongue firmly in cheek. Perhaps it is a daughter’s fond nod to what earned her father the most fame and popularity among the masses. However, those who have read his memorable fiction—Train to Pakistan and I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale Sing among many others and the seminal two volume A History of the Sikhs, will vouch for the valuable literary contribution made by Singh to the Indian writing scene. His columns, more often than not, deal with contemporary political matters and pressing social issues. The commentary in these articles is straightforward and serious, and Singh’s writing style is simple yet erudite. His technique is sharp and incisive. He minced no words and took no sides. Political bigwigs and page three socialites alike received the sharp sting of his scathing observations. Singh’s research and preparation was deep and detailed and what he questioned and commented on was regarded and respected by all. The essays in this collection showcase the variety of his interests and the range of his penmanship. Most of his columns customarily concluded with either a joke (his own, or one retold with due credit given to the original creator) or some quality poetry that he had recently been impressed by. These additions by no ...

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