Indian author Khushwant Singh dies at age 99
March 21, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
NEW DELHI--Khushwant Singh, one of India's best known writers who won fame for a searing book on partition of the subcontinent as well as his once-daring descriptions of sex, died Thursday aged 99.
The country's most prolific author, who died at his home in New Delhi after suffering breathing problems, had only recently stopped writing despite his advanced years, his son said.
“He was having some breathing problems. He hadn't been too unwell in his last few days and had only stopped writing recently. He was still reading newspapers and books ... was mentally alert, and led a full life,” Rahul Singh told the NDTV news channel.
Singh, nicknamed King Leer for his legendary roving eye, was a household name who wrote more than 100 books and countless newspaper columns, including one called “With Malice Towards One And All.”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him “a gifted author, candid commentator and a dear friend” as tributes poured in for a great writer with an even greater sense of humor.
“The world will always remember him as a lovable human being,” author and veteran BBC journalist Mark Tully said on NDTV.
Fellow authors including Vikram Seth and former cricketers were among those who visited his Delhi home to pay their respects to a man hailed by President Pranab Mukherjee as a “fearless intellectual,” the Press Trust of India said.
In an interview with AFP in 2005, Singh described his passion for writing as compulsive.
“I don't know what to do with myself if I don't write, I have lost the art of relaxation,” he said.
Singh, a Sikh born on Feb. 2, 1915 in what is now Pakistan, occupied India's literary center-stage for half a century with his novels. Some in his early decades scandalized India with their sexually explicit scenes.
He is best remembered for his historical novel “Train to Pakistan,” which recounts the tragedy and bloodshed of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 into India and Pakistan.
Singh, who penned his books and columns on yellow legal pads, became a writer relatively late.
Born into a well-off family, he initially practiced law in Lahore. But partition was the trigger for him to change professions.
“I loathed the law. I thought I can't waste my entire life living off other people's quarrels,” he said.
Singh, famous for his insouciance, had penned his epitaph before his death.
“Here lies one who spared neither man nor God/Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod/Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun/Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun.”
In this photograph taken early in 2004, Indian author Khushwant Singh poses in New Delhi. (AFP)