Khushwant Singh gave Mangalorean Catholics a window on the world

By John B Monteiro

Mangalore, Mar 20: The death of Sardar Khushwant Singh, at the age of 99 years, brings back to me memories of how he provided a window for Mangalorean Catholics to showcase their community in the then leading Indian magazine the venerable The Illustrated Weekly of India.

In the late 1960s he became the Editor of this magazine and started a series on Indian communities. My friend, Stany Rebello from Udupi-Kallianpur side, who was Marketing Manager of the then leading publishing and book-selling house, Allied Publishers, was a pushy Mangalorean. Having heard that Khushwant Sing had started a series on Indian communities, he went and met Khushwant and had him agree to feature Mangalorean Catholics. Next thing Stany did was to enlist my participation.

Apart from writing the lead article on Mangalorean Catholics, I did also assemble some photo-ops. My daughter, Primrose, now Managing Editor of Lonely Planet, and earlier of Femina, both of BBC-Times Group, had to be imported from Mangalore to Bombay before the 40-day embargo on newly delivered moms/babes from getting out of their maternal home where delivery has to take place traditionally, and was flown back, at plane fares which I could ill-afford then, to be baptised by a very handsome priest at Wodehouse Church, in Colaba, Bombay. The Times photographers, who are cited in the reproduced pages, did a good job.

Khushwant Singh was a rich man by himself, his father being a leading builder in Delhi. When in Bombay, he was my neihbour in Colaba, my Strand House flat being next to Arthur Bunder Road, leading to Radio Club and the B0mbay harbour at Gateway of India. In the building where he stayed on the second floor, we had our friend, John D’Souza’s family, since migrated to Australia, on the terrace flat. Occasionally, Khushwant would go to their flat and would have only Scotch. But, John, and his wife Tresa, didn’t mind as he was in ship-connected business and getting hold of Scotch was not an issue for him.

Down the same road, across the Colaba Causway, lived his son bachelor son Rahul, next o the petrol pump, retired editor of Reader’s Digest. It is interesting to note that this son and I competed, among others, for a Readers Digest scholarship in USA. Parameshwar, the doyen of advertising fraternity and the backbone of Reader’s Digest in India, was the deciding factor and my friend, Piloo Narielwala , another ad pioneer of the day, early 1960s, said that despite my considerable journalistic output, I had no chance against the Establishment.

While working at Illustrated Weekly of India, with the India’s communities series and a dash of sex, then a rare thing, the circulation of Illustrated Weekly skyrocketed only to decline under the later editorship of M V Kamath and even Pritish Nandi. I was an occasional contributor even with these editors – before its closure for good.

It is interesting to note that Khushwant walked the 3/4 km distance from his Colaba flat to his office at Boribunder, also Victoria Terminus (VT) and now Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) in a sweat T-shirt.



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Comment on this article

  • Natesan SV, Tirunelveli / Chennai

    Wed, Mar 26 2014

    Extraordinarily gifted multifaceted personality - Rarely gifted persons - Very few known to me are endowed with such versatile Seriousness and Humour and Courage to express - Shri Cho Ramaswamy in Chennai can be compared. Even though we don't subscribe to each and every word of Shri Sardarji or Shri Cho Ramaswamy.

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  • Thomas D'Mello, Kundapura

    Fri, Mar 21 2014

    Being a Konkani Catholic from Kundapura, I am proud to be partially associated with Mr. Kushwanth Singh’s literary work.

    You may read my contribution in KUSHWANTH SINGH’S JOKE BOOK NO 5.

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  • P. Shivaram Shetty, Baroda / Vadodara

    Fri, Mar 21 2014

    I think the articles about Bunts & GSBs were published somewhere in the first half of 1976. The above Article of Mangalorean Catholics was published in the last week of December 1975 ( as we can see from the Cover page photo published here above ), and other articles about other Mangalorean communities were published after this Mangalorean Catholics Article. At that time I was working in Bombay and I just remember that it was the time of Emergency.
    I also tried to search for 1975 to 1978 Issues of this Weekly on Internet today, but even in the Archives the old issues of Illustrated weekly are not available. Now this Weekly is defunct. Khushwant Singh was forced to retire from Illustrated weekly in the last week of July 1978 as he had supported Indira Gandhi's Emergency, and Mangalorean M V Kamath took over from him immediately as the Editor of Illustrated Weekly.

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  • naresh, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 21 2014

    Mr. Jhon baab can we get the magazine about bunts and GSBs???> shivaram ji i was only 21/2 year old that time...

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  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangalore

    Fri, Mar 21 2014

    Late Kushwant Sing is the exceptional brain of our country and it is a great loss to the nation.We pray that his soul rest in peace and his kith and kins be given the strength to withstand the shock.Thanq.

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  • Jason, Mangalore

    Thu, Mar 20 2014

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the article. Would it be possible for you to scan it in a pdf format ans send. I have some old Illustrated Weekly magazines at home, but not this one. This one looks worth preserving and collecting. I remember there was one issue featuring Wilfy but have since lost it.


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  • U.B. SALIAN, surathkal

    Thu, Mar 20 2014

    One of the legendary personality. May his soul rest in peace

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  • Vincie Rodrigues, Thottam/ Canada

    Thu, Mar 20 2014

    Dear John Monteiro:

    Thank you for compiling an interesting memoir of your interaction with Late Khushwant Singh, the Editor of wellknown "Illustrated Weekly of India" of yester years. Mr. Singh definitely left his mark with his skills and gift of Journalism. Sorry to see him go with his rather unfulfilled understanding on "Life" and "After Death" ...
    I wonder, even the wellknown, wealthy and famous men and women perhaps reconcile to accept Death as an end of a phenomenon by their difficult perception on Religion!!!

    The pictures you ed in your article are not very clear. Thank you for educating with some new information about Mangalorean Catholics!! Good to know the past of our people and the recognition bestowed on them at that time.

    DisAgree Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse


    Thu, Mar 20 2014

    Couldn't the God of death, let him complete a century at least?
    A prominent, fearless & on your face author, journalist, writer & commentator-he was up to the task in each role he played. His words captivated the readers. May his soul rest in peace.

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  • Vasant Raj, Mangalore / Abudhabi

    Thu, Mar 20 2014

    Good old collections..RIP.

    DisAgree [4] Agree [19] Reply Report Abuse

  • P. Shivaram Shetty, Baroda / Vadodara

    Thu, Mar 20 2014

    Under the India's Communities Series, Khushwant Singh used to Publish the history one community each Week. Under this Series, he not only Published detailed Article about Mangalorean Catholics, but he also Published similar Articles about Bunts and GSBs of our DK district.

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  • naresh, mangalore

    Fri, Mar 21 2014

    Mr.shivaram....where can i get both bunts and GSb articles????.. i searched for it in the net could not get..

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  • MANU, Udupi

    Fri, Mar 21 2014

    Do we have the habit of preserving things for future other than wealth?

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