Khushwant Singh was born, in a Sikh family, in Hadali which is situated in Khushab District, Punjab presently, situated in Pakistan. His father was Sir Sobha Singh, who was a prominent builder in Lutyens' Delhi. His uncle Sardar Ujjal Singh was previously the Governor of Punjab and Tamil Nadu.
His grandmother named him as Khushal Singh meaning ‘Prosperous Lion’. He was also given a pet name “Shalee” that was ridiculed during his school days. Thus, he chose a name that rhymed with his brother Balwant’s name and thus named himself as Khushwant.
Singh received his education at Modern School, New Delhi. Later on he went on to study at the Government College in Lahore. He got his further education from St. Stephen's College in Delhi and King's College London. Finally, he went to study for the Bar at the Inner Temple.
Singh married Kawal Malik who was his childhood friend. She had moved to London and they met again when Singh went to London to study Law at King's College London. They soon got married and had a son, named Rahul Singh, and a daughter, named Mala. His wife passed away in the year 2001.
His relatives who made it big
Actress Amrita Singh is the grand-daughter of his brother Daljit Singh. Her mother is Rukhsana Sultana and father is Shavinder Singh who was Khushwant Singh’s brother’s son.
Tisca Chopra renowned TV and Film Actress is Singh’s grandniece.
He stayed in "Sujan Singh Park", near Khan Market New Delhi, Delhi's first apartment complex, built by his father in 1945, and named after his grandfather.
Khushwant Singh started his professional career as a practising lawyer in the year 1938. During his initial days, he started working at Lahore Court for eight years. In the year 1947 he entered Indian Foreign Service after Indian independence. During this time, he started as Information Officer of the Government of India in posted in Toronto, Canada.
Later on, he was Public officer and Press Attaché for the Indian High Commission for four years in Ottawa and London. In the year 1951, he joined the All India Radio as a journalist. Between the years 1954 and 1956, he worked in Department of Mass Communication of the UNESCO at Paris. From the year 1956, Singh started focusing on editorial services.
Between the years 1951-1953, he founded and edited Yojana which was an Indian government journal, The Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly; and two major Indian newspapers, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times.
It was during his tenure that The Illustrated Weekly became a renowned Indian newsweekly. The circulation of the journal increased from 65,000 to 400000.
His Political career
From the year 1980 to 1986, Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha. He received the Padma Bhushan award in the year 1974 for his great service to his country. However, in the year 1984, he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. In the year 2007, the Indian government awarded Khushwant Singh the Padma Vibhushan award.
During his political career, Singh was accused of favouring the ruling Congress party, particularly during the reign of Indira Gandhi. Consequently, he was derisively called an 'establishment liberal'.
Singh's faith in the Indian political system started deteriorating by the anti-Sikh riots. The event followed Indira Gandhi's assassination, in which major Congress politicians were alleged to be involved.
Singh wanted to develop greater diplomatic relations with Israel. It was during this time that India did not want to displease Arab nations where as many people from India found employment there. Hence, Singh visited Israel in the 1970s and was quite impressed seeing the progress of that nation.
Singh died a natural death on 20 March 2014 at his residence in New Delhi. He was 99 years old.
To Commemorate Him
• In the year 2016 Khushwant Singh’s name was listed in Limca Book of Records as a tribute.
• He was awarded Rockefeller Grant in the year 1966
• He was awarded with Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in the year 1974. However, he returned the honour in the year1984 to protest against the government's siege of the Golden Temple at Amritsar.
• He was awarded with the Honest Man of the Year, by Sulabh International in the year 2000
• He was given Punjab Rattan Award by the government of Punjab in the year 2006.
• He was given Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India in the year 2007
• He received Sahitya Akademi Fellowship by Sahitya Academy of India in the year 2010.
• He also received 'All-India Minorities Forum Annual Fellowship Award' by Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in the year 2012.
• He received the Lifetime achievement award by Tata Literature Live; The Mumbai Litfest in the year 2013.
• He received the Fellow of King's College London in January in the year 2014.