I Fear Being Dependent: The Unpublished Khushwant Singh Interview

“I know death is inevitable,” Singh said in this interview just years before he passed away. Listen in!

3 min read

Khushwant Singh donned many a cap over the course of his life. After beginning his career as a lawyer in Lahore, Singh would go on to become a journalist, a diplomat, and even a politician.

Singh’s acidic wit, caustic humour and skillful way with words left an impact on people that will stay beyond his time.

This is a previously unpublished interview with Khushwant Singh that was recorded in 2009 by Dr Kiran Bala, just after Singh turned 94.

Khushwant Singh on the Horrors of Partition

“When I left Lahore, I did not have any job. I joined diplomatic service. After giving up that job, I tried my hand at writing. When I was in London, I decided that I’ll stick to writing. I knew that I’ll have to read a lot to be a writer and I should have a specialisation.”
Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh was born in Pakistan’s Punjab, in 1915. Since there were no birth records at the time, his exact date of birth has been disputed. His father decided his birthday was in February, but later, based on his grandmother’s claim that he’d been born closer to August, he gave himself the date of birth 15 August 1915.

Khushwant Singh started his career as a lawyer, working in Lahore court from 1939 till 1947.

While he wanted to stay in Lahore, the partition of India in 1947 forced him to move to India, where he joined the Indian Foreign Service.

“Partition was horrible. I wanted to stay in Lahore. I thought it would be like another province of India. I never realised, nor did any of my leaders that partition would take such a horrible form. After all, Nehru and Jinnah assured us that nothing would happen. It would be a peaceful partition. Both were utterly wrong.”
Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh’s Love For the Written Word

After moving to India in 1947, Khushwant Singh worked with the Indian Foreign service till 1951. In 1951, he joined All India Radio. He’d go on to also work with the UNESCO before founding and working as the editor of Yojana, The Illustrated Weekly of India, The National Herald and The Hindustan Times.

Singh wrote at least 45 books and short stories over the course of his life. He said that the purpose of his writing was to inform, provoke and amuse. Under his editorial leadership, the Weekly’s circulation grew from 65,000 to over 4,00,000.

“The formula of such a high readership was that there was enough provocation. I almost made Weekly a mouthpiece of Muslim minority. They were a discriminated lot and they got no coverage in any newspaper. I was the only one pleading for their rights. I wrote on Pakistan and did a special issue on Jinnah.”
Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh: On Growing Old & The Fear of Death

‘Well, I know death is inevitable and in old age it is near you. I know it will come one day but I’m scared of one thing – I don’t want to be dependent on any one. I don’t want to be a burden to my son or my daughter. I don’t want to add to their burden.’

Five years after this interview, Khushwant Singh breathed his last. He passed away peacefully at his home in Delhi, on 20 March 2014. He often quoted Ghalib, to remind himself about the march of time, and the inevitability of death.

“Raumein hai rakhsh-e-umr kahaan dekhiye thame. Nai haath baag par hai, na paa hai rakaab mein. (Life moves at a galloping pace. Where it will stop, I do not know. I have neither the reins in my hands, nor my feet in the stirrups.)”
Khushwant Singh

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