Writers live on forever. There is this immortality which is attained when you write a book. The concept of death is then cheated on and rightly so. When Khushwant Singh passed away, there was this surge of emotions in the country and outside of the country as well. India had lost its beloved writer. I started reading Khushwant Singh when I was in school. It began with his jokes (in those days, we called them non-veg jokes). We were boys, driven by testosterone and Mr. Singh’s jokes just added onto what we were experiencing as teens. As I grew up, I realized that the man had written a lot more than just jokes. Those were just additions off-handedly thrown in for teenagers like me.
I experienced a portion of “Train to Pakistan” in the eighth grade and since then I have not stopped reading him. This according to me is one of India’s finest novels – written about the time of partition, when nothing was certain and yet all what the residents of Mano Majra wanted was peace and calm. I then moved on to his short stories, starting with “The Mark of Vishnu” and then my most favourite one, “The Portrait of a Lady” and the stories never stopped being read. His columns about the world and the way it was, clubbed with humour just had to be the thing to make me stop feeling gloomy.
And then there were other books and stories I read written by the man. And then one fine day, just like that he passed away. What he did leave behind is this body of work that speaks volumes about the man he was and the writer that we all loved. Aleph Book Company has published his body of work, parts of it, samples of it, across 99 pieces, each for the year he lived – 99 pieces of sheer joy for the reader to take in. This collection has everything in it that he ever wrote (well not whole of it but mostly covers all forms of writing) – from fiction to short stories to columns to jokes to poems and stories from his life.
“99” was published on Khushwant Singh’s birth anniversary. The book provokes thought and a whole lot of entertainment. “99” takes you to a place where you want to read more of Khushwant Singh. This book is perhaps the best tribute paid to the man who entertained us with his writing, made us relate to his characters, made us see Delhi in a different light, and also made us contemplate about death as much as he reveled in living. Read “99” if you love what Mr. Singh has written over the years. Read “99” if you want to know what he wrote and want to start off with his writing. Read “99” to see and understand what great and simple writing is all about. It is but true: Writers do live on through their writing and there is no better example than this.