Khushwant Singh – A Significant Post-Colonial Writer

Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh, born 2 February 1915 in Hadali, British India, now in Punjab, Pakistan, is a prominent Indian novelist and journalist. Singh’s weekly column, “With Malice towards One and All”, carried by several Indian newspapers, is among the most widely-read columns in the country.

An important Indo-Anglian novelist, Singh is best known for his trenchant secularism, his humor, and an abiding love of poetry. His comparisons of social and behavioral characteristics of Westerners and Indians are laced with acid wit. He served as editor of several well-known literary and news magazines, as well as two major broadsheet newspapers, through the 1970s and 1980s.


A significant post-colonial writer in the English language, Khushwant Singh is known for his clear-cut secularism, wit and a deep passion for poetry. A regular contributor to various national dailies, Singh is also famous for his novel ‘Train to Pakistan penned in the year 1956.

Khushwant Singh is a senior prominent Indian novelist cum journalist. He was born on 2 February 1915 at Hadali in British India that is now a part of Punjab in Pakistan. A significant post-colonial writer in the English language, Khushwant Singh is known for his clear-cut secularism, humor and a deep passion for poetry. His assessment and comparison of social and behavioral traits of people from India and the West is full of outstanding wit. Here’s more information on the biography of Khushwant Singh.

Infact, Khuswant Singh’s writing is so popular that his weekly newspaper column, “With Malice towards One and All”, published in many Indian national dailies is among the most widely-read commentaries in the country. Singh completed his bachelor’s from the Government College at Lahore and thereafter, pursued further studies in law at King’s College in London, UK. Sir Sobha Singh, Khushwant Singh’s father, then used to work at a reputed builder in Lutyens’ Delhi. Read on about life history of Khuswant Singh.

Once while still practicing as a lawyer in the High Court of Lahore, Khushwant Singh was on his way to his family’s summer residence at Kasauli at the foothills of the Himalayas. It was just days prior to the partition of India and Pakistan in August 1947. Singh was driving his car when he came across a jeep full of Sikhs on an unusually vacant road that day. The Sikh men pridefully narrated to him how they had just butchered away all residents of a Muslim village.

All these instances found vivid description in the book ‘Train to Pakistan’ Khushwant Singh later wrote in 1956. In the time to come, Singh was appointed to edit Yojana, a journal published by the Indian government. Other publication who’s editing Singh was encharged with were the Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly and two other major Indian dailies – The National Herald and the Hindustan Times. Under his leadership, The Illustrated Weekly came to be hailed as India’s pre-eminent newsweekly.

There’s many other kudos bagged by Khushwant Singh. For instance, Singh was a Rajya Sabha member of the Indian parliament from 1980 to 1986. He was also honored with the Padma Bhushan award in the year 1974 for service to his country, but he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army in 1984. Undeterred, the Indian government awarded Singh an even more prestigious honor, the Padma Vibhushan in the year 2007.

Life and Career

Singh was educated at Government College, Lahore and St. Stephen’s College in Delhi before reading for the Bar at King’s College London. His father, Sir Sobha Singh, was a prominent builder in Lutyens’ Delhi.

In August 1947, days before the partition of India and Pakistan, Singh, then a lawyer practicing in the High Court in Lahore, drove to his family’s summer cottage at Kasauli in the foothills of the Himalayas. Continuing on to Delhi along 200 miles of strangely vacant road, he came upon a Jeep full of armed Sikhs who boasted that they had just massacred a village of Muslims. Such experiences were to be powerfully distilled in Singh’s 1956 novel Train to Pakistan. (The 2006 edition of Train to Pakistan, published by Roli Books in New Delhi, also contains 66 photographs by Margaret Bourke-White that capture the partition’s violent aftermath.)

Singh has edited Yojana, an Indian government journal; The Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly; and two major Indian newspapers, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times. During his tenure, The Illustrated Weekly became India’s pre-eminent newsweekly. After Singh’s departure, it suffered a huge drop in readership.

From 1980 through 1986, Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974 for service to his country, in 1984 he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. Undeterred, in 2007 the Indian government awarded Singh an even more prestigious honor, the Padma Vibhushan.

A self-proclaimed agnostic, lover of fine scotch whiskey and admirer of female beauty, he nonetheless leads a very disciplined life, waking up at 4 am each day and continuing to write his columns by hand. His works range from political commentary and contemporary satire to outstanding translations of Sikh religious texts and Urdu poetry. Despite the name, his column “With Malice Towards One and All” regularly contains secular exhortations and messages of peace, brotherhood and tolerance. In addition, he is one of the last remaining writers to have personally known most of the stalwart writers and poets of Urdu and Punjabi languages, and profiles his recently deceased contemporaries in his column. One of the most striking aspects of his weekly writings is his outright honesty; he will openly admit to his weaknesses and mistakes, along with an acceptance of his declining health and physical abilities in more recent times.

As a public figure, Singh has been accused of favoring the ruling Congress party, especially during the reign of Indira Gandhi. He is better viewed as an establishment liberal. Singh’s faith in secular forces has been shaken by events such as anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination, in which major Congress politicians were alleged to be involved. But he has remained resolutely positive on the promise of Indian democracy

By Khushwant Singh

* The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories, 1950
* The History of Sikhs, 1953
* Train to Pakistan, 1956
* The Voice of God and Other Stories, 1957
* I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, 1959
* The Sikhs Today, 1959
* The Fall of the Kingdom of the Punjab, 1962
* A History of the Sikhs, 1963
* Ranjit Singh: The Maharajah of the Punjab, 1963
* Ghadar 1915: India’s first armed revolution, 1966
* A Bride for the Sahib and Other Stories, 1967
* Black Jasmine, 1971
* Tragedy of Punjab, 1984
* Delhi: A Novel, 1990
* Sex, Scotch and Scholarship: Selected Writings, 1992
* Not a Nice Man to Know: The Best of Khushwant Singh, 1993
* We Indians, 1993
* Women and Men in My Life, 1995
* Uncertain Liaisons; Sex, Strife and Togetherness in Urban India, 1995
* The Company of Women, 1999
* Truth, Love and a Little Malice(an autobiography), 2002
* With Malice towards One and All
* The End of India, 2003
* Burial at the Sea, 2004
* Paradise and Other Stories, 2004
* Death at My Doorstep, 2005
* The Illustrated History of the Sikhs, 2006