He was honest – to the seemingly unpleasant extent of being ‘bitter’ for some. Displaced from his actual home in Hadali, now in present day Punjab, Pakistan, he understood and reflected upon the world as a little boy lifted from the ground against his will and thrown into new waters, learning to swim all over again. In Train To Pakistan, he refused to mince his words; he narrated the story of the heartbreaking love woven between a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl, and how religious hate and communal violence during the partition of 1947 uprooted any and all notions of harmony.

For the uptight, his ribaldry was simply disgruntling but for those who could read between the lines, his prowess over riposte and wit was solid foresight to learn from. Right-wing nationalists in India dubbed him “the last Pakistani living on Indian soil” given his good-humored and congenial views of Muslims and Pakistanis. Regardless of the righteous backlash and the numerous ruffled feathers in socialite and bureaucratic circles, he wrote without inhibition. He committed to paper from the heart of the very same boy who had to abandon his home for a new and alienating frontier.

If you looked carefully, between the bursts of colorful language and playful jabs, there was a tincture of melancholy and longing. For it was he who penned the haunting verses: “Not forever does the bulbul sing; In balmy shades of bowers, not forever lasts the spring; Nor ever blossom the flowers.” Bravely carrying a big heart from the very get-go, he was open to criticism and innovation.  His command over Urdu, Punjabi and English enabled him to waft through three languages with indelible skill. Perhaps this is why when you read him in any three of the tongues, the vernacular was always crisp and pithy.

Remember his prose and remember his poetry. Remember him as the little boy from monsoon-soaked Hadali who refused to take duplicitous morality seriously and whose contagious laughter compelled you to think: There is hope after all. Now that he has left us – the roaring life o f the party – remember him as the genial bird-watcher clutching his binoculars, the wordsmith who won hearts – and even turned away many – with his unapologetic charm. Remember him as Khushwant Singh.