–Read India Initiative—
This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.
The Sunset Club is about three men (all fictitious characters) – Sardar Boota Singh, Nawab Barkatullah Baig, and Pandit Preetam Sharma. They have been friends for more than forty years. They’re all octogenarians and are a part of the sunset club. Every evening, during sunset hours these men sit in the Lodhi Gardens, and indulge in conversations about a number of controversial topics. These topics range from religion and politics to love, sex, and scandals.
In the book, the author, delicately portrays, the life and problems of old age. He keeps track of this trio for a year, from January 26, 2009 to January 26, 2010. The different events that take place through a year include violence, general elections, corruption, and natural disasters. The ways in which the conversations of the trio keep changing as per time, are narrated quite well in the book.
The book not only gives a picture of old India, but it also highlights her various social complexities and irony. The readers can experience an emotional roller-coaster ride with sadness and laughter simultaneously in the book. The Sunset Club was published by Penguin India in 2011. It is available in paperback. The price of the book in Amazon for a print copy is Rs 254 and kindle version is Rs 174.
Khushwant Singh was one of India’s best-known writer and columnist. He was the founder-editor of Yojana, the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, the National Herald and Hindustan Times. He is the author of classics such as Train to Pakistan, I shall Not Hear the Nightingale (re-titled as The Lost Victory) and Delhi. His non-fiction includes the classic two-volume of ‘A History of the Sikhs,’ a number of translations and works on Sikh religion and culture, Delhi, nature, current affairs and Urdu poetry. In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan. Among the other awards that he has received are, the Punjab Ratan, the Sulabh International award for the most honest Indian of the year, and honorary doctorates from several universities. He passed away in 2014 at the age of ninety-nine.
Khushwant Singh at the age of 95 wrote ‘The Sunset Club’ a novel about three friends in their 80s who spend the evenings in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens talking about love, lust, sex and scandal towards the end of their lives.
The prime protagonists of Sunset Club are Pandit Preetam Sharma, Nawab Barkatullah Baig and Sardar Boota Singh. They are friends for over forty years. They all are now in their eighties. Every evening, at the hour of sunset, they come and sit together on a bench in Lodhi Gardens. There they exchange news, views, events that have gone past during the day, talking about everything from love, lust, sex and scandal to religion and politics.
The book follows a year in the lives of the three men—from January 26 2009 to January 26 2010— Khushwant Singh brings his characters vibrantly to life, with his appetising portrayals, of their fantasies and foibles. His accurate unerring ear for dialogue and his genius for capturing the flavour and texture of everyday life in their households is just fantastic. He interweaves this with the compelling Indian human story as a parallel chronicle of this book. He talks of a year in the life of India, as the country goes through the cycle of seasons, the tumult of general elections, violence, natural disasters and corruption in high places. The narrative is garnished with ribald and is lyrical, poignant and profound, The book is a deeply moving exploration of friendship, sexuality, old age and infirmity. A joyous celebration of nature, an insightful portrait of India’s paradoxes and complexities. A masterpiece from one of India’s most-loved storytellers, The Sunset Club will have you in tears and laughter, and grip you from the first page to the last.
Khushwant Singh has remained a rarity – an almost completely a home-grown success. The Sunset Club, his most recent novel, is an achievement of great measure because of his age—to produce a novel at 95 is testimony of his interest to the cause of writing.
He was a great writer and in that provocateur, raconteur and a celebrated editor of India. He wrote without pomposity and that’s the hallmark of his success as a writer. Even in the autumn of his life the Sardar’s zest for life was undiminished and ‘The Sunset Club is a proof of that. The Sunset Club, tagged as analects of the year 2009, chronicles the friendship of three oldies- a Hindu, A Sikh and a Muslim—but in reality you get to see contemporary India, especially between January 26, 2009 and January 26, 2010.
It does not take a great effort on the reader’s part to realize that Sardar Boota Singh is Khushwant Singh himself. At one point Nawab Barkatullah Baig tells his wife about Boota “He is good company. He spices his talk with anecdotes, quotations and improper language. One can never tell how much of what he says is true, but it doesn’t matter. I enjoy listening to him.” Readers too, enjoy reading it. The book has some Hindi abuses too that come out naturally while in conversation that produces cheap sexy thrills. The author has tried to keep the old men’s bench at Lodhi Gardens warm throughout the pages mainly by the sexual jaunts of bachelor Punjabi Brahmin Sharma, Baig and Boota. These jaunts add to the reader’s interest and tow well with the portrait of contemporary India that lures you to finish the book. Old age and infirmity lurks in the background but it is the recollections of the youth and hope for the next day that is remarkable about the Sunset. Despite the departure of Baig and Sharma, it is the hope that makes Boota gaze upon Bara Gumbaz and makes you feel that it still resembles the fully rounded bosom of a young woman.
The book is an appropriate homage to Delhi, emanating from the Lodhi Gardens, and in the environs of Sujan Singh Park, where Khushwant Singh has lived much of his life. But the real achievement of the book is the mere fact that it simply exists. It’s the kind of book that few writers would attempt today. The sentences and narration is very sharp and upfront. Khushwant Singh’s greatest achievements as a writer came early on, with his monumental and unparalleled ‘History of the Sikhs’ and the Partition classic ‘Train to Pakistan.’ The hold he has on our minds, and the claim he has on our hearts, comes from the rest of his life.
He is the most un-hypocritical of writers, confessing to his preference for tanpura-like buttocks and his enthusiasm for Scotch and women with tremendous zest. His home in Sujan Singh Park has always been open to a stream of writers and publishers who wanted either his blessings or his gossip. His weekly column – carried on without a break, except in rare cases of illness, for decades—has made Santa—Banta jokes famous. And he was proud of, the dirty-minded schoolboy humour that seeped into all his novels,
If you’ve not read this book you’ve indeed missed the spice of life. I would give this book seven out of ten.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)
AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN
(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
RHYTHM … in poems
(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)