New Delhi, March 20 IANS | 7 months ago

Fourteen-year-old Kanwar Singh may not be able to pronounce his late neighbour and renowned author and journalist Khushwant Singh's name properly, but he remembers him as the "man from Pakistan" who "wrote books".

Kanwar, who stutters while talking, studies in Class 8 of a government school. He lives in a gurdwara next to Sujan Singh Park, a posh south Delhi locality where Khushwant Singh breathed his last Thursday at the age of 99.

"My father (a gurdwara priest) told me a lot about him (Khushwant Singh)... he came from Pakistan and wrote books. My father has read some of his books and he liked them," Kanwar told IANS as he stood outside the 'E' block of the locality which houses the flat where Khushwant Singh lived.

"I had seen him on a couple of occasions many years ago and wanted to see him one last time today," he said, vowing to start reading all Khushwant Singh books "one by one".

The Sujan Singh Park apartment, a landmark for oldtimers of the capital, in whose construction his grandfather, Sir Sujan Singh, had a big hand, has four blocks. For the residents, Khushwant Singh is best known for his books and newspaper columns.

"His column 'With malice towards one and all' always brought a smile to my face. I am a fan of his writing. He had the guts to call a spade a spade and offended many but he never cared about what people thought of him," said 55-year-old businessman M.Y. Wani.

"He was an institution in himself. I cannot think of any other writer in this country who can ever take his place," he added.

For some, it was Singh's critically acclaimed book "Train to Pakistan" that turned them into ardent admirers overnight.

"That book was magical. I will always remember him by that book," said 40-year-old Prakash Rai, another neighbour.

But for 50-year-old retired army man Navjot Virk, Singh's demise is particularly sad because in a world where everyone is serious, the veteran author was the only "laughing gas".

"He showed the mirror to the society on many occasions and encouraged them to laugh at themselves. We have not only lost a writer but an artist," he said.

(Posted on 20-03-2014)

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