Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Khushwant Singh’s ashes find abode in Hudali school

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JOHARABAD:

Renowned Indian author and journalist Khushwant Singh, born on February 2, 1915, in the Sikh family of Hudali village in Punjab, left behind a legacy that transcended borders and generations.

Singh’s profound love for his birthplace and his cherished alma mater, Government High School Hudali, remained unwavering throughout his life.

In a testament to this deep-rooted affection, Khushwant Singh expressed his desire that his final resting place be within the walls of the school where he received his primary education.

This heartfelt wish, steeped in nostalgia and reverence, was honoured after his passing. His ashes, carefully preserved, were brought back to Hudali, a symbolic return to the place that held his fondest memories.

The initiative to fulfill Khushwant Singh’s last wish was led by Syed Azaz Uddin, a prominent writer, who undertook the task of bringing Singh’s ashes to Pakistan on April 18, 2014.

Singh’s remains were placed in a niche within the school’s wall, a gesture of profound respect and homage to the literary luminary.

Upon the installation of a marble plaque bearing Singh’s introduction – “Ek Sikh, Ek Scholar, Farzand-e-Hudali” – the school became not only a centre of learning but also a shrine to the enduring legacy of a remarkable individual.

Singh’s affection for Hudali was palpable in his writings, particularly in his acclaimed work “Truth, Love and a Little Malice,” where he fondly reminisced about his formative years spent in the village. His visit to Government High School Hudali in 1986 further underscored his deep emotional attachment to the place where his educational odyssey began.

Reflecting on his visit, Khushwant Singh was visibly moved as he stood before the school that had shaped his early years. Overwhelmed by nostalgia, he struggled to find words, his silence punctuated by tears that bore witness to the profound impact of his upbringing in Hudali.

Khushwant Singh’s connection with his native village extended beyond literary pursuits; it was a bond forged by shared experiences and cherished memories. Despite achieving global renown as an author, journalist, and diplomat, he remained grounded in his roots, never forgetting the village that nurtured his dreams.

Asad Ali Bhatti, a renowned Punjabi poet hailing from Hadali, shared insights into his correspondence with Khushwant Singh, highlighting the author’s enduring influence across borders.

Bhatti’s interactions with Singh revealed a profound admiration for the author’s work, despite the linguistic differences between them. Through a collaborative effort involving translation and shared conversations, Bhatti and Singh bridged the gap between Urdu and English, fostering a unique bond rooted in mutual respect and literary appreciation.

In 2003, Bhatti’s efforts to meet Khushwant Singh in Chandigarh were thwarted by visa restrictions, but he later had the opportunity to encounter Singh in Hadali during the author’s visit to Pakistan.

Khushwant Singh’s multifaceted career encompassed roles as a lawyer, diplomat, journalist, and politician, but it was his contributions to literature that earned him global acclaim. With over 80 books to his name, including the authoritative “History of the Sikhs,” Singh left an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

His satirical wit and keen observations found expression in iconic characters like “Santa Singh and Banta Singh,” which became synonymous with his distinctive style.

Singh’s passing on March 20, 2014, marked the end of an era, but his legacy endures through his writings and the lives he touched.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2024.

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