How To Live & Die – Khushwant Singh Style Of Managing Life

Pickled In Rum…..

The horse and the mule live for 30 years, And know nothing of wines and beer,
The goat and sheep at 20 die, And never get a taste of Scotch and rye,
The cow drinks water by the tonne, And at 18 is mostly done
Without the aid of rum and gin, The cat in milk and water soaks, And then in 12 short years it croaks.
The modest, sober, bone-dry hen, Lays eggs for others, then dies at 10.
All animals are strictly dry; they sinless live and swiftly die.
But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men Survive for three score years and ten,
And some of them, though very few, Stay pickled till they’re 92.

Around 2 years ago when I read these lines I thought Late. Sardar Khushwant Singh is just a writer who has seen only one side of the coin. I felt he lacks connected to hardship of life as he was descendant of Sh Shobha Singh Ji, who owned half of Delhi once thus belonging to affluent class. His love for Single malt and Golden Fried Prawns was world known.

But after his death, the obituary messages floated and I came across a beautiful article he wrote once on how to stay happy in life. Technically his points are based on observations that he made experiencing the common folks across the country. He wrote this when he was 96 years old and this gives me confident that these are wise thoughts of a man who was waiting his departure to heavenly abode. In a very simple way he has elaborated how a planned life can help you enjoy life. I am just reiterating his article with my understanding.

How to stay happy in life

He says….

I’ve often thought about what it is that makes people happy—what one has to do in order to achieve happiness.

First and foremost is good health. If you do not enjoy good health, you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will deduct something from your happiness.
(Now a day’s health is something which is a precious asset. I see youngsters ailing form hypertensions or dealing with sugar levels and insulin. The process by which comfortable life is earned takes a toll on health. So health is first and be in career or business which does minimal impact on your health. Develop investment practices which make you stress free and not stuff you with ailments.)

Second, a healthy bank balance. It need not run into crores, but it should be enough to provide for comforts, and there should be something to spare for recreation— eating out, going to the movies, travel and holidays in the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money can be demoralising. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers one in one’s own eyes.

(How much is always a question. Earnings and investments with no goals are always endless. The answer is a simple process called- goal formulation. Make yourself aware what amount you need to accumulate for which goal. Arrive at an accumulation rate. Debt is burden which takes your credit worthiness and prestige. Even if you repay your credit every time, but question is why you resort to short term credits to fulfill your monthly consumption needs?)

Third, your own home. Rented places can never give you the comfort or security of a home that is yours for keeps. If it has garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and flowers, see them grow and blossom, and cultivate a sense of kinship with them.

(I agree to the extent that property is part of overall asset allocation. Emotionally also I agree to him that own house is more comfortable and provides perceived status in the society rather living on rent. Having a garden or terrace depends on personal liking, affordability and budget.)

Fourth, an understanding companion, be it your spouse or a friend. If you have too many misunderstandings, it robs you of your peace of mind. It is better to be divorced than to be quarrelling all the time.

(What can I say on this? Yes an understanding partner is foremost requirement of a good personal and financial life. Your spouses should take part in every day financial decisions. Divorces are costly and draining to financial status so be confident while getting into a relationship and manage wisely.)

Fifth, stop envying those who have done better than you in life—risen higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be corroding; avoid comparing yourself with others.

(Stick to your own goals while you are in accumulation phase. Someone else has a different life and priorities. So don’t get influenced when someone is aggressively putting money in stocks or purchasing land or buying a bigger car. It is not your area of thinking what friends, relatives, peers or neighbors do when you are availing financial planning.)

Sixth, do not allow people to descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.

(In financial field gup-shup amounts to herd mentality and influenced financial decision. Advice if often free to get and give but substance in advice comes only by paying a price.)

Seventh, cultivate a hobby or two that will fulfill you—gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks, or to meet celebrities, is a criminal waste of time. It’s important to concentrate on something that keeps you occupied meaningfully.

(Wasting time and money on partying, shopping or boozing is always an outflow in financial life. All these habits involve money and somehow damage your budget. Buying decisions should be planted in advance for all major expenses.)

Eighth, every morning and evening devote 15 minutes to introspection. In the mornings, 10 minutes should be spent in keeping the mind absolute!

(All major gurus insist on this. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in , Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia- “We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the buy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”)


Well I am now a fan of Khushwant Singh and eager to read his other books. What do you feel of the points he mentioned. Are they too simple to read and practice or they are simple to put down but challenge to execute? Share your thoughts on this.

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Hemant Beniwal is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER and his Company Ark Primary Advisors Pvt Ltd is registered as an Investment Adviser with SEBI. Hemant is also a member of the Financial Planning Association, U.S.A and registered as a life planner with Kinder Institute of Life Planning, U.S.A. He started his Financial Planning Practice & TFL Guide Blog in 2009. "The Financial Literates" is a dream & mission to make Indians Financial Literate.


  1. Free reading on ebook,is it practicable,?Khushwant shing’s which books r available on ebook?

  2. ‘How to stay happy in life’ 🙂 when will people tire of pursuing happiness in the wrong place i.e. the vast world outside! It lies elsewhere baba…it lies somewhere within you – really, truly, absolutely true – personal experience se bol rahi hoon dears… if you don’t get this now you will when zindagi se do maar khayenge tab. As far as Khushwant Singhji’s tips, with all due respect to his age, which is 3 times mine, if only he really introspected on his reality within, he would have given much deeper tips on the same….my 2 pence. You can ignore if it isn’t to your taste. But someday you will know what I mean I am sure – no one escapes it at some time or other anyways. Want to be happy? Look for it in the right place & not everywhere that it’s never meant to be, anyway

  3. Hi Hemant
    I have been reading columns of Khushwant Singh in newspapers and magazines for many years and found them very interesting.All the points mentioned are very good. Health is no doubt most important. Hobbies like gardening are very good especially for retired people. Unfortunately you can not enjoy gardening if you live in an apartment.

  4. Spending quality time with kids is also one of it , it gives immediate happy feeling, keeps positive boost in your life, also in long run helps to achieve a healthy relationship between parent and kids, and build them into a strong personalities for society..

  5. Hi Hemant,

    As usual, a great post.. I am wondering, how you only come across nice nice articles and not me 🙂
    Really wonderful. I agree hobby is one of the valuable point. Especially, when people working in IT companies and in shifts, they tend to think nothing but work profile. But when they retire, they do not know what to do further.

    Especially, when women take a break for parenting and other such reasons, for them, hobby is very important to keep their mind active :).

  6. Hi Hemant — good reading of Khuswant who had a very emotional and facinating life style. I always read his comments — read few books and met him personally once. A charming person and reading his 8 commandments in your article was indeed inspiring. The missing 2 of his life are more fun and fun….

  7. Hi Hemant,

    Thanks for the article. I will start following some points in the article like introspection, hobbies etc.,

    I have written an article on mutual funds & its advantages. Would you like to publish it in your blog please?

  8. good article

    wish u could also share on similar books

    read ur piece after going through a friends e mail on similar subject sans the financial part

  9. Hi Hemant
    Today somebody sent me the article which had two more points. One is about anger and the other is about death. I think the control over anger though very difficult is also very important as anger can spoil many relationships. One can become very humble if one understands the reality of death. I think it is very important for our politicians to understand these points as one can see the type of arrogance they exhibit and the type of language they use. This is really very disgusting.

  10. Wow..amazing..
    I never read any book by Khuswant Singh for I didn’t like his views on life, women. But then after his death read about him and realised that he made Santa Banta jokes popular and also have done some good research work ex History of Sikhs.
    This is a very interesting article and helps us to prioritise. As they sayWise men learn by other men’s mistakes, fools by their own.

  11. Very….amazing
    i have never seen such a tremendus tuth of life in a so practicl way……khuswant singh lived his life in his own way without any chaos and nagging.

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