I have always been a great fan of writings of Khushwant Singh. That’s because his style of writing made reading an interesting affair, an engrossing episode. In fact, I did not subscribe to his ideological leanings but, nevertheless, I always found enough time to have a look at his write-ups. In literary circles, he was known for bringing forth history of Sikhs. It was a voluminous affair and he did that with perfection. Besides that novels like Train to Pakistan substantiated his fame as a writer.
I remember well that I had habit of reading novels in college days but slow reading never allowed me to finish the novels in one go. Being student of English Literature my bond with English novels deepened with each passing moment in those years. One of my classmates, who loved to buy novels in his limited pocket money, bought this novel but kept it a secret, knowing well that if by chance I came to know about the whole thing, the novel would soon become a history for him. Unfortunately, all things hidden secretly are spotted easily by me. I carried this novel to my home, much against his desire, but I returned this novel to him just after few days. It came as a huge surprise for him since I was infamous for keeping novels for months at my home. I told him that this novel was written in such a lucid way that it made reading a pleasant affair.
Train to Pakistan records tragic events related with Partition of India. It was a complex theme of which I had become aware of through TV serials like Tamas. And so I was not interested in reading again anything related with same theme but once I started reading this novel not for a moment I found reading becoming a dull task. It was written in such a soul-stirring manner that you were left with no other alternative other than to read from start to finish, devoid of long breaks! That explains as to why he emerged as such a popular writer among all the class of people. His writings were devoid of flamboyant and bombastic expressions. He wrote in simple English- something that you also notice when you are reading works of R K Narayan- which attracted even those readers having aversion for anything written in English!
Nowadays I meet many readers who complain that reading has become such a difficult task because modern day writers, especially award-winners, have given way to complex phrases, weird expressions, and meandering sentence constructions which more often than not leave them confused and irritated. However, this was not the case with Khushwant Singh. His column “With Malice towards One and All” which featured in English dailies and “Na Kahu Se Dosti Na Kahu Se Bair” which found space in Hindi newspapers broke all records of popularity. The anecdotes, and daily dose of humour which marked these columns served as life-line for many readers besides ensuring a respectable circulation.
Now having turned writer myself, I feel grateful to writers like Khushwant Singh, R K Narayan and Ruskin Bond, who taught me the art of writing simple English. I mean they taught me how to narrate serious episodes in easy language without compromising with seriousness inherent in them! I would not remember Khushwant Singh as a writer who dealt with women, wine, kisses and sex in his writings, but I would always remember him as a writer who made it easy for me to write simple English in an age when writing has got wedded to complexities!