Author: Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Roli Books
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8174363564
For Khushwant Singh who wrote his own obituary in his twenties, death is not sacred but he reflects on it increasingly these days. In Death At My Doorstep, a collection of obituaries written over the years, he presents the dead in death, as in life-good, bad or ugly. Be it on the twilight hours of Bhutto, the gory end of Sanjay Gandhi, the sycophantic M O Mathai, the Marxist millionaire Rajni Patel, the overbearing Lord Mountbatten, or on his pet Alsatian Simba, each obituary bears out his irreverence or affection.
Cocking a snook at death, he has also penned his own epitaph. Yet outliving those whom he admired has moved him to tears, and many of his obituaries have left the reader with a heavy heart.
While Death At My Doorstep is Khushwant Singh’s demystification of death, it also ferries his message to Badey Mian, in the words of Allama Iqbal:
Baagh-e-bahisht say mujhay hukm-e-safar diya thha kyon?
Kaar-e-Jahaan daraaz hai, ab meyra intazaar kar.
(Why did you order me out of the garden of paradise?
I have a lot of work that remains unfulfilled; now you better wait for me.)
During the last meeting between Bhutto, his wife and daughter, Benazir’s request to embrace her father or at least touch his feet before going was firmly turned down.
At 6 p.m. he asked for hot water and his shaving set saying, I don’t want to die looking like a mullah. After he had erased the growth on his chin, he looked into the mirror and said in self-mockery, Now I look like a third world leader. Then the bravado went out of him. He lay down on the mattress and went into a kind of coma.
Before Tara Masih the hangman put the black hood over his face. Bhutto’s lips moved, and according to one version he mumbled, Finish it! According to another his lips moved but no sound came from them. He was dressed in a salwar kameez. He had a gold Zenith watch on his wrist and a gold ring with three diamonds on his finger. After his corpse had been bathed somebody noticed that the diamond-studded ring was missing. The ring was found in the pocket of the hangman. Both the watch and the ring were handed over to Benazir Bhutto the next morning.
PART 1: ON DEATH AND DYING
The Dalai Lama on Death
Fear of Dying: Acharya Rajneesh
Have You Ever Thought of Death?
On the Hit List
Nearing Death: Old Age
Death as a Houseguest
Experience of Death
Learning from the Dead
Life After Death
Coping with the Death of a Loved One
PART 2: AFTER LIFE
Z A BHUTTO: From the Death Sentence to the Gallows
Sanjay Gandhi: Young Dictator
Tikka Khan: Butcher of Bangladesh
M O Mathai: Nehru’s Nemesis
Mountbatten: Lord of Baloney
Rajni Patel: Marxist Millionaire
Gurcharan Singh Tohra: Be- Taaj Badshah
Dhiren Bhagat: Gone at 30
Prabha Dutt: Boss’s Boss
Hardayal: A Tribute to the Great Revolutionary
RGK: Paradigm of Self- effacement
Remembering Mulk, the Pioneer
The One and Only Nirad Babu
Balwant Gargi: The Nacked Triangle Fetched Him More Foes Than Friends
R K Narayan: Malgudi No More
Ali Sardar Jafri: The Poetry of Burning
Faiz Ahmed Faiz: Marxist, Lover and Poet
G S Fraser: Poetry of the Adi Granth
A Requiem to Domsky
Kishan Lal: Poetry with Dahi Bhallas
Yogi Bhajan: Khalsa Flag at Half Mast
Protima Bedi: She Had a Lust for Life
Nargis Dutt: Mother India
Amrita Shergil: Femme Fatale
Chetan Anand: On Losing a Friend
Dharma Kumar: Women Like Hr Do Not Die
P C Lal: Air Chief Marshal (1917-1984)
Jack Wilberforce Burke Peel: My English Bhai
Manzur Qadir: The Role Model
Knowing Bhisham Sahni
The Palam Air Crash: 1973
Daadimaa: The Portrait of a Lady
Chajjoo Ram Villa
Simla: Family Favourite
Epitaph: Khushwant Singh