November 13, 2013

Book Review : 'The Good, The Bad And The Ridiculous' by Khushwant Singh

Encounters In India and Land Beyond over a Scotch

The Contents read a list of names spanning two pages - back to back. Some names stuck a chord whereas some were completely new. My eyes involuntarily searched for 'Mahatma Gandhi' and I jumped to the page number to read it. Some blurbs:
He took a vow of celibacy in his prime, but without consulting his wife, which I think was grossly unfair. He would sleep naked beside young girls to test his brahmacharya. He could be very odd.
And thus the stage was set for reading this book that contained the profiles of  many prominent people while he opens up a closet full of facts that are not widely known :) Having read Jug Suraiya's 'The Great Indian Bores', it always fascinated me to read opinions of prominent people from other equally great people - those who have been in 'their' circles.

In the Introduction, Mr.Singh states:
I am a voyeur and a gossip. I am also very opinionated.
..and this set the mood even better. I love people who are opinionated; because they generally have very 'strong' opinions on things they believe in and do not try to be politically right; and hence Mr.Singh does not fear criticism when he states uncomplimentary things about dead people.

Perspectives are more interesting, enthralling and captivating than Narrations. And especially when the perspectives are from one of the most prolific writers whose life has spanned multiple generations(almost a century!), then it carries a lot of credibility along with interesting innuendoes. If the perspectives are spewed with sexual escapades and with frequent usage of the word 'bosom', then you are all the more sure that the author has to be no one else but Khushwant Singh saheb.

'The Good, The Bad And The Ridiculous' is Khushwant Singh's presentation to us of what he had to undergo while meeting many famous and not-so-famous people during his lifetime. His opinions are candid and the felicitousness of the prose makes some of the characters jump out inspite of the verbiage spanning just a few pages.  We are looking at a book that spans 200 pages with 35 characters being commented/profiled upon. That does not leave a complete character analysis of each one of them, but some extremely witty lines interlaced with the Author's smugness.

He is outright blunt in rejecting or expressing his animosity to certain people - like Advani; whereas, he also hides his inclination towards some, in the veil of 'ambivalence' - like Indira Gandhi. The biggest piece is not on his relatives or political leaders, but his boss - VK Menon; followed by a close second of Giani Zail Singh. The shortest is on Promita Bedi - like her streak on the Juhu Beach. The author's perspectives give you an introduction to even those whom you have never even heard of before - especially to the non-baby-boomers.

This book will be a great gift to your grandfather or dad or uncle who was born around Independence(baby-boomers) and has read and seen those characters either in the newspapers or on the tele. For the gen-x like me, who dig History, this is always an interesting book, for you get an inside peek into the lives of many, from the eyes of Khushwant Singh -- You will not be blamed, as it is Singh sahib who is peeking :)
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