ELLE Book Club

Remembering Khushwant Singh

We pay tribute to the ‘dirty old man’ of Indian literature

Indian literature lost an important voice today. Acclaimed writer and journalist Khushwant Singh has passed away at 99.

With a total of 45 novels and short story collections – including the classics Train to Pakistan and I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale – Singh has left behind a legacy that speaks to his ribald humour, love for poetry and active interest in the political landscape of the country. Never one to reach for subtleties when hit-you-between-the-eyes frankness would do, he was writing, nay, wielding his controversial opinions and chronicling his intimately human and hilarious stories until the very end.

Here is a list of signature Khushwant Singh truisms.

  • "A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip."

  • "Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't."

  • "The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

  • "Children: You spend the first 2 years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next 16 years telling them to sit down and shut up."

  • "Why is a bad government like a bikini? Answer: Because people marvel at what's holding it up. And they wish it would fall."