Friday, March 2, 2018

Book Review: Portrait of a Serial Killer by Khushwant Singh

This is a collection of 58 short essays written by Khushwant Singh over many decades published in various newspapers and magazines but not in a book form before. This book is divided into four sections, grouping the essays by People, Places, Indian Way and Politics.

In the first section about people, author writes about his meetings with Lata Mangeshkar at her home and a dinner with Dev Anand. There is a chapter on author's perspectives on Nehru as a writer and in another chapter he describes the life Amir Khusrau had lived being a courtier and being close to a saint at the same time. Book’s title ‘Portrait of a serial killer’ is a chapter in this section where in author constructs the life story and looks into how the mind of a serial killer works based on the information available about him.

Second section is about places. Here author gives summary of his experiences in visiting the places across India and the fascinating stories behind them. It has an interesting story of sudden appearance of numerous snakes in a village and how they find what had caused it. This section has chapters on Hyderabad, Agra, Amritsar, Haridwar, Delhi and villages in Madhya Pradesh.

Third section is about the way Indians think and behave. And the last section is about the political dramas and the stories as seen by the author. Here author dons the role of a journalist and the language becomes critical and he suggests how we should see things differently and act.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first two sections of this book. This book was on my night stand for a week as a warm companion to relax and put me to good sleep.


Khushwant Singh had many hats to wear – that of author, lawyer, diplomat, journalist and politician. He read and wrote voraciously and has numerous books to his credit. He died in 1994 at the age of 99. This book was a compilation of his works by his daughter and was published in 2015 on the hundredth anniversary of author’s birth.