Absolute Khushwant – A Book Review

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It has been a busy month so far. I just shifted to a new place and was busy in settling down in my new home. When I was putting my books on the shelf, I realised that I had piled up lots of half-read books in the past few months. So I put myself on a new mission to finish these books before I pick up any new book from my ‘yet TBR’ pile.

One of the books in that half-read pile was Absolute Khushwant. I had picked it up when I was traveling from Nashik to Pune as my ‘one for the road’ book. But I had barely managed to read very few pages; thanks to the bumpy ride of the under construction highway. As I reached Pune, the book got sidelined and joined the others in ‘half-read’ pile. I am fascinated by his way of writing so I decided to finish this book before any other book.

This is my first book of Khushwant Singh. I have not read any of his works, not even his weekly columns which used to get published in some Indian newspapers. But the rawness with which he pens his thoughts just holds you till the last word. This simplicity and frankness always touch your heart even if you disagree with his views.

In this book, this 96 old guy writes very frankly on almost all of the aspects of human life. He opens the dialogue, by telling us how he feels about being old. In the later pages, he opens up about his views on sex, love and marriages. He talks about his relationship with his wife Kaval and the rough patch in their marriage. He also writes about his worries, insecurities and much more.

He then moves on to the people he came across in his life, few he liked, he respected and some whom he trashed with his pen. He had trashed the religious fundoos (his word for fundamentalists) from all the religions including his own with harsh strokes of his pen. He took a strong stand against Bhindranwale for which he was on their hit list for years. He shares his views about politics, terrorism and the riots of 1984.

Even being agnostic himself, he writes elaborately on various religious scriptures and what he finds good in them. There is a long piece on Sikh community in the book along with one on the city of Delhi. Khushwant shares his love for Urdu language and especially for Urdu poetry, where he tells us how he enjoyed translating works of great poets in English and his favorites amongst those legends.

As the book comes to an end, topics of his essays turn philosophical like destiny, luck, faith in humanity, etc. He aptly concludes the journey on the point of death. He shares how the death’s of his family members which he witnessed at a tender age affected him, and now at the age of 96 how he expects to put the full stop to his journey, and then he signs off with his remarks on himself.

Overall a good read. I liked his style, the rawness of thoughts, no sugar coating and being straightforward. Now I am looking forward to reading more of his work. I would rate it 3.5/5. I would recommend you this book if you are interested in non-fiction short writings.

Paperback: 200 pages

Publisher: Penguin India (17 August 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0143068717

ISBN-13: 978-0143068716

Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.2 x 19.6 cm

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19 Comments

  1. I haven’t read Khushwant Singh.. but always heard about his candour.
    Thanks for sharing a candid review about a candid writer. I will eventually get to the book as soon as I get through with my “Half Read” pile.
    Currently reading “The Calling” by Priya Kumar.

    ~Romil Kapoor @SIPGullak

  2. I have read , and enjoyed a few of Khushwant Singh’s books. I always appreciate what a fearless writer he is.
    I think I just might pick this one up, as your review tells me that it should be interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I also read many books written by khuswant singh. Even in my school days I read many of his written material. He is an amazing writer. I always impressed by his way of writing. This book also seems interesting 📖. Will check out this one also.

  4. Khushwant Singh is definitely one of the finest writers from India. His style is simple and easy…nothing heavy about his choice of words. I have always enjoyed his writing because he is very clear in his thoughts and frank too.

  5. I enjoy his columns more than his books…I am glad you find the book interesting, because I could not manage to read more than couple of pages!

    By the way, thanks for suggesting that Marathi book…Will try to read that for sure.There is a certain charm to regional books,isn’t it?!

    1. Book is interesting because it’s not a novel, it’s compilation of his short essays so one can put the book down after one or two.

      Sure thing, do try Marathi book. Yup, indeed there is certain charm in regional languages

  6. I’m a fan of Kushwant Singh’s writing for a really long time. Love the “rawness” with which he writes, like you have mentioned here.
    I have read most of his books and I’m surpised I seem to have missed this one…
    Also do read his Sunset Club, it’s a lovely satire on old age and again autobiographical.
    Well, it’s sad we are no longer in the august company of this “dirty old man”. 😉

  7. I remember reading The portrait of a lady in school. In words so simple that a school goer can understand, he managed to explain some complex emotions. I also enjoyed reading his autobiography for the honesty he showed while describing the most embarrassing incidents.

  8. I am a more of a fiction stories lover but somehow I always wanted to read Khushwant Singh’s books.After reading your review, I am definitely going to pick this one up for my next read.

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