The Khushwant Singh Literary Festival in London reflects on the legacy of Khushwant Singh (KS), author, scholar, journalist and iconoclast, by discussing the values he stood for, and addressing some of his concerns. Why London and why Kings? King’s is the alma mater of KS. And London is where he worked and studied in his formative years. His “mother tongue” was English, he would say. And his days in England helped shape many of his passions and concerns. Some of which are closer ties between India and Pakistan; equal opportunities for women worldwide; and disseminating the values of democracy, tolerance, compassion in a world that is increasingly more polarised. KSLF London is a meeting of minds to celebrate ideas that can change the lives of all connected with these issues and with an interest in the subcontinent.
The theme of the fest this year is, “At Home in the World”, in keeping with today’s trends of migrations, partitions, analysis of colonialism, and more.
The festival opens with a session on Khushwant Singh, who was very much at home in London as he was in Kasauli or Delhi or Bombay. Andrew Whitehead of BBC mentioned that KS was his go to man whenever he needed a quote. And would head to Sujan Singh Park, returning, never disappointed. Zareer Masani’s family have been close friends for generations and Humra says she began her writing career thanks to KS.
Eminent Nobel-laureate Vidia Naipaul has spent several evenings with KS. But knew his son Rahul better. Rahul was his guide for two of Naipaul’s books on India and also took him to Punjab during the time the State was under terrorist attack.A tribute to the genius of Naipaul, by some of his erstwhile friends, Farrukh Dhondy, Roderick Matthews, Rahul Singh.
Punjab and Sikhism were abiding concerns and interests of the agnostic Khushwant. Kim Wagner’s new book “Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre”, will mark the sombre centenary of Jallianwalla Bagh.
KSLF London 2019 will also cover the abiding passions of India and UK, Cricket. Renowned British journalist and author, Mihir Bose releases his new book, The Nine Waves, The Extraordinary Story of Indian Cricket, at the festival just in time for the World Cup. With former England and India Captains, Alan Lamb and Sunil Gavaskar.
The other abiding passion in India and amongst Indians in Britian and worldwide is Bollywood. The fascinating story offilm star Kabir Bedi’s extraordinary mother, Freda Bedi, has been captured by Buddhist and author Naomi Levine and Andrew Whitehead in their respective books. Freda came in from the West and found her home and passions in the East. Mick Brown will join them in steering us through her remarkable journey.
Poet Laureate of UK, Imtiaz Dharker with a session exclusively curated for Khushwant Singh, Poetry: In Bad Taste, ably supported by young poets Mona Arshi and Daljit Nagri.
The colonials were at home in so many parts of the world. And even found love where they went. Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang ‘s, The Last Vicereine, talks of turbulent times and a turbulent love story.
In keeping with KS’s passion for Indo pak ties we have the new book on the secular Begum Raana, who grew up in the hills in India and became first lady of Pakistan. Not a decorative one. But an activist for women’s empowerment. An Indo-Pak collaboration between the Pakistani writer Tahmia Aziz Ayub and the Indian Deepa Agarwal.
Train to Pakistan, the movie by Pamela Rooks is based on what many consider to be KS’s best work of fiction, which was written from his personal experience of Partition. Highlights and discussion by Farrukh Dhondy who wrote the screenplay, Rachel Dwyer, specialist in Indian culture and cinema at School of oriental and African studies.
We have been running a KSLF in Kasauli in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh in India since the last seven years. Kasauli is where KS had a home and did a great deal of his writing. KSLF Kasauli is a not-for-profit and dedicated to education of the girl child and the ecology of the region. More on https://kslitfest.com/