Random Thoughts

My Tribute to Khushwant Singh

Perhaps the least revealed aspect of Khushwant Singh's colorful and long active life, which he cited several times but which has been ignored as irrelevant by wordsmiths who wrote about him including the obituaries, was the fact that in his life he perfectly balanced his cogitative pursuits with active physical lifestyle of exercise, sports and walks.

Unlike most of the known contemporary thinkers and writers Khushwant Singh realized that both mental and physical activities occupy an equal space in ones daily routine, and that both are healthful to each other.

The last column I read by him at the age of 98, which still had his trademark of wits here and there, he talked about his daily routine and diet including a couple of shots of single malts. The latter was essential to give that kick of 'saroor' to relish his simple food and the evening.

He emphasized the need for massage, which was done two times a day, to keep the body muscles invigorated and for better blood circulation. His reasoning was that in old age one can't do much strenuous exercises for muscle strength, but to keep them healthy and in shape massage was the only way.

Khushwant Singh also mentioned in the same column that how important it was to keep ones bowls clean. His counseling was that one should have fleet enema occasionally. And in his imaginative and typical satirical style he quoted Gandhi who used to have the enema not only for himself but doing it on his female aides as well.

He loved stomach friendly easy to digest food, and for that his preference was South Indian idly and sambhar. Still he never liked 'upampa', the wheatmeal  pudding-look salty dish which was not palatable to sweet halva-loving Punjabi Khushwant Singh.

His physical activities included playing tennis which of course he abandoned in his most senior years. He was a popular and friendly walker as he strolled along every morning with his neighborhood friends.

A lot has been said about his immense contribution toward contemporary Indian literary writings and his widely-read and lucid daily columns. However, his other big contribution was his creation of two funny characters in the name of Santa and Banta. The popular jokes attributing to Santa-Banta or revolving around them were what elevated Khushwant Singh from the level of an intellectual elite to the status of a simple fun-loving 'aam aadmi'.

(Footnote: as a tribute to Khushwnat Singh, my all-time favorite journalist, this piece was written with a glass of wine. Cheers Mr. Khushwant Singh where ever you are).


More by :  Promod Puri

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