WHAT DO old people do all the time? What becomes a year in our republic’s life? Khushwant Singh’s novel links these questions with a simple device: three old men meet every evening in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens to chat about their day and the headlines. Meet the Oxonian and Hindu Sharma, the rich nawab and Muslim Baig, and of course, the columnist, “agnostic sybarite” and Sikh Boota. Together they capsize the dialectical method from their ‘boorha bench’.
Our narrator Boota swings between gently fathoming the seasons and cussing at the news as he tries his damnedest to keep his appetites. Dilli upper-crust retired life streams through one exact year with a chapter for every month: Ghalib, sardar jokes, Shiv Sena, constipation, obituaries, Valentine’s Day, MF Husain, French etymology, Karva Chauth, courtesans, Nano, (graphic) memories of sexual escapades, Eid, Jarnail Singh, mangoes, Section 377, Holi, astrology, Ramadan, YSR’s accident, geese sightings, Madhu Koda, Liberhan, Telangana, Rathore and Ruchika, ND Tiwari on camera with prostitutes, Christmas pudding and cognac, MJ and Tiger Woods, and always, the flowers.
Allow its slightness and the book rolls smoothly, buoyed by the civilising effects of conversation.
Allow its slightness and the book rolls smoothly, buoyed by the civilising effects of conversation. He may not be profound like Roth’s Mickey Sabbath or Yeats’ Crazy Jane, but this sardarji is most certainly chatty, fervid and assiduous.
First published here