- Reading level: 16+ years
- Hardcover: 216 pages
- Publisher: Aleph Book Company (16 August 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9383064730
- ISBN-13: 978-9383064731
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #94,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Extraordinary Indians Hardcover – 16 Aug 2017
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About the Author
Born in 1915, Khushwant Singh was among India’s best-known and most widely read authors and journalists. He was founder-editor of Yojana, and editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, Hindustan Times and National Herald. He published six novels, including Train to Pakistan and Delhi: A Novel as well as several books of short stories. Among his other books are Unforgettable Khushwant Singh: His Finest Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry & Humour, The Freethinker’s Prayer book, A History of the Sikhs; an autobiography, Truth, Love & a Little Malice: a biography, Ranjit Singh: Maharaja of the Punjab. In addition, he published translations of Hindi and Urdu novels, short stories and poetry.
Khushwant Singh was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 1986. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974; he returned the award in 1984 to protest the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. In 2007, he was awarded India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan.
Khushwant Singh died in 2014.
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The personalities in this book range from Gurunanak to Indira Gandhi and from Kabir to Protima Bedi. The book is divided into six sections – Politicians, Spiritual Leaders, Writers/Artists, Family and Friends and Others. Lal Krishna Advani and Sanjay Gandhi are listed under the section And Two Who Flattered To Deceive. Whether this heading is the handiwork of the author or the editor, we will perhaps never know.
The old Sardar was a living storm and even after his death he continues to ruffle a few feathers. The same is evident from the way he describes the cold, dry and detached attitude of Mother Teresa while tending to the sick. Speaking of Abdul Kalam he says, ‘However one hopes that like Atal Behari Vajpayee Kalam too will stop his little attempts at versification after he takes over as President of India.’
Figures of history like Gurunanak, Kabir appear an oddity in this collection. But yet Khuswant Singh enlightens us on little known faucets of these gems. Speaking of fasting Roza he tells us that Ghalib wrote ‘I observe fasts, but keep my fasts well-humoured with occasional sips of water, and a few puffs of the hookah. Now and then I eat a few morsels of bread also. People here have a strange sense of things and a strange disposition. I am just whiling away the fast, but they accuse me of non-observance of this holy ritual. They should understand that skipping the fasts is one thing, and whiling them away is quite another.’ In the post on Mir Taqi Mir he tells us that at one time Urdu novelists and chroniclers used to have appendices to their works in which they included their favourite jokes which had nothing whatsoever to do with the themes of their books.
Speaking of Maulana Azad he says that about Samad he said, ‘He stood on the minaret of love from which the walls of kaba and the temple appeared of equal height.’ He tells how Mr. Azad was against the partition of the country. Rather he had sensed it was of the opinion that Muslims should never be at the forefront of the freedom movement. He tells us that though there were translations of the Holy Quran in numerous languages, Mr. Azad felt that it had complicated the otherwise simple word of the God and hence undertook the task of translation.
Khuswant’s Singh writing as usual is piquant and engaging. Whether you are fan of Khuswant Singh or not, you will immensely enjoy this book.
1. The book proclaims to remind us the true heroes in a time when false leaders are exalted : the political section of the book profiles Gandhi, Nehru, Indira, Rajiv, Maulana. So where does it leave Sardar, Lalaji, Tilak, and others - are they false leaders or not as worthy as Nehru clan? I would have let it pass as "to each his own", but proclamation about true heroes and false leaders(see the book's back over) cannot be condoned. Rajiv Gandhi made it to the list... no kidding.
2. The profile of Maulana is actually a primer on Quran. Two-thirds of the chapter is devoted to explanations of some of Quran's verses, how it is not meant to be radical, how islamophobia begins, etc. Peppered around it are a few details like Maulana was influenced by Quran, he had translated it to Urdu. I am not exaggerating - this is a Quran primer under Maulana hood.
3. Nehru was charismatic, well-read (duh!), ... and short tempered (i admit, this was news to me). There is nothing else that I did not know. His intrigue with Lady Mountbatten was mentioned; 70 years back it would have been termed cheeky journalism.
I admit that I did only read the political section of the book (about one-third), but this portion came across as sycophantic - if not outright propaganda, it looks like a Congress party-approved version, with far and few interesting tidbits that are not worth the price of this book. Where is KS's trademark humor? Agree, this is not a joke book, but am I wrong in expecting some "style" in the writing from a book that claims to picked out from KS's works? This makes my theory feasible - the one about KS being used as a brand to sell a mediocre book.
Singh himself drew lot of flak for his servility to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency to avoid giving up Lutyens privileges. Emergency has passed, KS himself has passed, it is time Ms.Maya Dayal too moved out of Lutyens mentally to be considered a serious writer. For what it is, I would not recommend this book to anyone.
P.S. I don't understand the couple of gushing 5 star reviews for this book .. "a Khuswant Singh book has to be good, right? Yeah.. lets write a good review. No? Whats wrong with you"
The people in this book are those he admired deeply including politicians like Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Giani Zail Singh; writers and artists like Mulk Raj Anand, Ali Sardar Jafri, R.K. Narayan; industrialists like J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla and few from his family and circle of friends.
A book of profiles of no ordinary people who made the country great. This book is to remind who our countries true heroes and heroines are.