(First Published 2010)
What do you do at the age of 95? The answer is write a novel. That’s right. Khushwant Singh, now 96, well, alive, and sill writing with hand, is back with his latest novel. He says in the preface that he had no intention of writing anything besides usual columns in the newspapers but one of his friends persuaded him to record the memories of his old and dead friends which he so often recounted. This, then, became the raison d’être of this novel.
It is a story of three octogenarians; a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh. The Sikh character is in large part autobiographical, having the same views as author’s autobiography (Truth, Love a Little Malice). The thee old men are living retired lives and have a lot of free time on hand. They meet every evening in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens which is surrounded by historical monuments especially from Indo-Islamic past. They talk and exchange views about the current Indian politics, culture, religion and other things. The narrative is set from 26 January 2009 till 26th January 2010.
Reading the novel one gets to know about the city of Delhi, its past, its present, its trees and flowers, and its cultural life. The issues in contemporary Indian society are looked at from the eyes of a dying generation.
The novel has all the characteristics of Khushwant Singh except one. It has clarity of language, acid wit, authentic depiction of India desi culture, excellent translation of the vernacular, saucy sex scenes, except an engaging story. Actually the plot does not exist.
In the end, the Hindu and the Muslim of the trio die and leave Boota Singh, the Sikh one, alone to wait death. A true reference to the author’s own life who says that not a single friend of his from old days is alive. He is, after all, 96.
My book rating: 3/5