THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN UN­COM­MON IN­DIAN

India Today - - OBITUARY - by Da­mayanti Datta

PUN­JABI PUT­TAR

Born on Fe­bru­ary 2, 1915, to a pros­per­ous fam­ily in Hadali in Pun­jab, now La­hore, a place Singh went back to time and again un­til 1947: As a col­lege stu­dent and as a prac­tis­ing lawyer. He was de­lighted when he re­ceived the Pun­jab Rat­tan award in 2006, the third In­dian af­ter Amrita Pri­tam and Yash Cho­pra, and called it his most valu­able hon­our.

UL­TI­MATE DELHIWALA

In the city of dur­bars, his was the last gra­cious out­post. In his book- lined, dimly- lit liv­ing room in Su­jan Singh Park, he held dur­bars of the gifted, the wannabe, the sponger and the ec­cen­tric in two shifts: First, the tea- time mélange of fe­male pen-wield­ers; and then, the whisky dur­bar at 7- 8 p. m..

LON­DON

EYE

A stu­dent of LLB at King’s Col­lege, Lon­don, he was called to the In­ner Tem­ple in 1938.“Hap­pi­est days,” he wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Truth, Love & A Lit­tle Mal­ice. Lon­don brought ro­mance into his life: His wife Kaval Ma­lik. He went back to the city in 1947, when he joined the diplo­matic ser­vice as press at­taché. A staunch de­fender of Bri­tish tra­di­tions all his life.

DIRTY OLD MAN

A Delhi mil­lion­aire takes up an un­bri­dled sex­ual jour­ney in Singh’s 1999 book, The Com­pany of Women. A pot­boiler or a win­dow to its cre­ator? The na­tion could never be sure. Singh fa­mously said, “I have been told that my eyes are those of a lust­ful bad­mash.” No­to­ri­ous for his brazen views on sex­u­al­ity, his pen­chant for ex­cesses was a self- cul­ti­vated per­cep­tion. In re­al­ity, he fol­lowed a dis­ci­plined reg­i­men in his pri­vate life.

WRITER AND

EDI­TOR

Fear­less and acer­bic, Singh continues to be In­dia’s most- read au­thor. He wrote over 80 best- sell­ers, in­clud­ing his first novel, Trainto Pak­istan, in print since 1956. He be­gan his ca­reer as a ra­dio jour­nal­ist in 1951 at the All In­dia Ra­dio. But it was print me­dia that he thought he was carved out for. He started with Yo­jana, a Plan­ning Com­mis­sion jour­nal, and later moved on to The Il­lus­trated Weekly of In­dia, 196978. He was the edi­tor- in- chief of Na­tional Herald, NewDelhi, The Hindustan Times and Con­tour be­tween 1978 and 1983.

MAL­ICE MAE­STRO

He em­braced the word ‘ mal­ice’ as a leit­mo­tif. Start­ing with his im­mensely pop­u­lar col­umn, With Mal­ice To­wards One and All, in The Il­lus­trated Weekly— with a car­i­ca­ture by the late Mario Miranda of Singh in­side a light bulb, with books, girlie mag­a­zines and a bot­tle of liquor— the word ap­peared re­peat­edly in his writ­ing, From Truth, Lovea nd a Lit­tle

Mal­iceto With Mal­ice to­wards One and All.

NICE MAN TO KNOW

He be­longed to a gen­er­a­tion of enor­mously in­flu­en­tial ed­i­tors. From Indira Gandhi to Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee, Man­mo­han Singh to L. K. Ad­vani, he hob­nobbed with the high and mighty of In­dian pol­i­tics. His po­lit­i­cal lean­ings— he was an un­abashed ad­mirer of San­jay made him un­pop­u­lar for a while. But with his trade­mark in­tel­lect, wit and cre­ativ­ity he made sure that he stayed in the news till the very end.

SCHOLAR PAR EX­CEL­LENCE

“I am not a learned man,” he wrote in a 2009 col­umn.“I was a poor stu­dent, a brief­less bar­ris­ter, a tact­less diplo­mat and ended up as an ill- in­formed jour­nal­ist.” But Singh was the au­thor of over 20 non-fic­tion works es­pe­cially on the his­tory of Sikhism. Through­out his life Singh gave lec­tures, wrote es­says and au­thored books on es­o­teric topics.

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