Remember reading Khushwant Singh say that his latest The Sunset Club is his last book, I sincerely hope not! Would really want him to keep writing his columns and authoring books till he reaches his century! The Sunset Club was particularly interesting to me since it helped me understand my own father’s ritual of going to the beach come rain or storm to be with his friends. I always wondered what they discuss every morning after their walks are done. How many new topics can one come up with everyday? But this book helped me understand the perspective of such, dare I say, senior citizens club. Besides this and of course the trademark Khushwant- isms about sex, love, lust and women the book has nothing much going for it.
By the way, just loved the book cover designed by Ajanta Guhathakurta and the cover photo by Bhavi Mehta!
The story is that of three friends who meet every evening at Lodhi gardens on the Boorha Binch –Old Men’s Bench facing the Bada Gumbad-The Big Dome (His description of why Bada Gumbad attracts maximum crowd is most definitely the highlight of the book!). The author says the reason for its popularity is because the dome, hold your breath, is an exact replica of a young woman’s bosom! Yes, that is Khushwant Singh for you! The three members are as different as they come, Pandit Preetam Sharma, Nawab Barkatullah Baig and Sardar Boota Singh. They have been meeting at the same place for over forty years and are now in their eighties. The group is called The Sunset Club and the book chronicles their take on everything from politics, to the Republic Day parade to the Babri Masjid riots, to Indian elections and of course women, love and sex.
The book follows a year in the lives of the three men starting from 26th January 2009 to 26th January, 2010. Along with their lives you also get a glimpse of the year that went by in India, as the country goes through the cycle of seasons, the tumult of general elections, violence, natural disaster and corruption in high places.
The book is sometimes poignant, at places coarse and most of the times witty. The author has very interestingly used Urdu poetry to describe the situation and state of mind of the three members.
The book kept me involved but not hooked.
Though the author does not need an introduction but here goes,
About the Author:
Khushwant Singh is India’s best known writer and columnist. He has been founder-editor of Yojana, and editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, The National Herald and The Hindustan Times. He is the author of classics such as Train to Pakistan, I shall not hear the Nightingale, Delhi, The Company of Women, and Burial at Sea. His non-fiction includes the classic two volume A History of the Sikhs; a number of translations and works on Sikh religion and culture, Delhi, nature, current affairs and Urdu poetry. His autobiography, Truth, Love and a little Malice, was published by Penguin books in 2002. Absolute Khushwant: The Low-down on Life, Death and Most Things In-between was published in 2010.
Khushwant Singh was a Member of Parliament from 1980 to 1986. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1974, but returned the decoration in 1984 in protest against the storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. In 2007 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.