Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Review: The Sunset Club by Khushwant Singh

Three people, all in their late eighties meet every day in Lodhi Gardens of Delhi at sunset and they occupy a bench called Boorha Binch (old men’s bench). They are the members of ‘Sunset Club’. They were introduced to each other in the same garden during their regular visits in the garden with occasional greetings slowly turning into lasting friendship.

They represent major religions of India. One of them is Pandit Sharma, second is Nawab Dehlavi and the third is Boota Singh. They have served in highest positions in their roles during their socially active life which has given them immense understanding of India.

This novel begins on January 26, 2009 (Republic Day of India) and ends on January 26, 2010. Each chapter in the novel covers one month of the year. And the thirteenth chapter concludes the novel. Apart from capturing the discussions of Sunset Club, each chapter records the transitions in the seasons and how Delhi reacts or adjusts to it.

All three members of this club are rich in their material possessions and rich in intellectual knowledge too. They discuss everything under the sun. Their personal lives, fantasies, sexual adventures, current affairs are all discussed. Religion and politics are often the central themes of their discussions. They disagreed on many subjects but they respected each other’s opinions, and longed to meet every evening to seek each other’s differing views on any subject, so the unity of Sunset Club remained unquestioned for 40 years.

They are bored with their routine lives. Sunset meetings are the major things in their daily life and they carry their discussions to their homes too to share with their family. They are in sunset years of their lives and know there is not much life left ahead for them. It is Nawab who bids goodbye to life first and the remaining two friends attend his funeral. They find it difficult to cope with the loss. And in few more days, Sharma too joins the dead friend. Sardar sahib (Boota Singh) alone returns to Boorha Binch of Lodhi Gardens.

Khushwant Singh wrote this novel at the age of 95. His objective was to record memories of his dead friends. Mixing facts with fantasy resulted into this novel ‘The Sunset Club’. He was not sure if he would be able to finish it. (But he went on to produce three more works after it). He was one author who brought life into every page of the book. The character of Sardar in this novel is partly reflection of himself. Reading this book may mentally prepare the readers toward their sunset years.