By Promod Puri
Perhaps the least revealed an aspect of Khushwant Singh’s colorful and long active life, was the fact that he perfectly balanced his cogitative pursuits with an active physical lifestyle of exercise, sports, and walks.
Unlike most of the known contemporary thinkers and writers, Khushwant Singh realized that both mental and physical activities occupy equal space in one’s daily routine and that both are healthful to each other.
In the last column I read by him at the age of 98, which still had his trademark of wits here and there, he talked about his daily routine and diet including a couple of shots of single malts. The latter was essential to give that kick off ‘saroor’ to relish his simple food in a relaxed evening mood.
He emphasized the need for massage, which was done two times a day, to keep the body muscles invigorated and for better blood circulation. He reasoned that in old age one can’t do any strenuous exercises for muscle strength, but to keep them healthy and in shape, massage was the only way.
Khushwant Singh also mentioned in the same column that how important it was to keep one’s bowls clean. His prescription was that one should have fleet enema occasionally. And in his imaginative and typical satirical style, he quoted Gandhi who used to have the enema not only for himself but doing it on his female aides as well.
He loved stomach-friendly easy to digest food. And for that, his preference was South Indian idly and sambhar. Still, he never liked ‘upampa,’ the wheatmeal pudding-look salty dish which was not palatable to sweet halva-loving Punjabi Khushwant Singh.
His physical activities included playing tennis which of course he abandoned in his most senior years. He was a popular and friendly walker as he strolled along every morning with his neighborhood friends.
A lot has been said about his immense contribution toward contemporary Indian literary writings and his widely-read and lucid daily columns.
However, his other big contribution was his creation of two funny characters in the name of Santa and Banta. The popular jokes attributing to Santa-Banta or revolving around them were what elevated Khushwant Singh from the level of an intellectual elite to the status of a simple, fun-loving ‘Aam-aadmi’.