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Train to Pakistan - A Book Review


Train to Pakistan


  • A fiction by Khushwant Singh.
  • First published by Ravi Dayal Publisher, 51 E. Sujan Singh Park, New Delhi 110003 in1956
  • Price Rs. 175 (2002 Edition)
  • Pages: 207


A Novel:


A story of a little known frontier village Mano - Majra (Punjab) - a railway station situated near bank of river Sutlej dividing India & Pakistan. Here the author narrates history of 1947 Summer after Partition was declared and frontier elsewhere has become scene of rioting and bloodshed, but this is the village where Sikhs and Muslims have always lived peacefully and partition did not mean much. Life is regulated by the trains which rattle across the near by river bridge. One day local money lender is Kala Ramlal is murdered. Suspicion falls upon Juggut Singh - a gangster having an affair with the Muslim weaver's young daughter Nooran. A western educated communist agent Iqbal Singh comes and does his activity here and stays at gurudwara after meeting Meet Singh - a priest. And one day a train comes from Pakistan full of dead Sikhs and some days later same thing - a train full Sikhs from Pakistan is repeated. Iman Baksh, Mullah a Muslim spiritual leader at mosque and all Muslims are asked by Hukumchand, deputy Magistrate, to leave the village and "I am not going to reveal - say" what happens then - it is the heart of the novel.

Few quotes from the novel:

1. By the summer of 1947, when the creation of the new state of Pakistan was formally announced, ten million people - Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs were in flight. By the time the monsoon broke, almost a million of them were dead and all of the northern India was in arms, in terror or in hiding. (10)
2. Muslims said the Hindus had planned and started killings. According to Hindus, the Muslims were to be blamed. The fact is both sides killed. Both shot, stabbed, speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped. (9)
3. The winds of destruction are slowing across the land. All we hear is "KILL, KILL". The only ones who enjoy freedom are thieves, robbers and cut throats, then we were better under British, at least, there was security. (64)
4. One could never be sure about educated people, they were all suspiciously cunning. (139)
5. If you really believe that things are so rotten that your first duty is to destroy to wipe the state clean. Then you should not turn green at small acts of destruction. Your duty is to convince with those who make the conflagration, not to turn a moral hose-pipe on them. To create such a mighty chaos that all that is rotten like selfishness, intolerance, greed, falsehood, sycophancy is drowned. In blood, if necessary. (195)
6. I am tempted to quote few lines from 195 - India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion:
(a) For Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow protection.
(b) For Muslims, circumcision and kosher meat.
(c) For Sikh long hair and hatred of Muslim.
(d) For Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee.
(e) For Parsi, fire worship and feeding vulture ethics, which should be kernel of a religious code, has been carefully removed. (195)

"Train to Pakistan" with its fine destruction of village and river and its study of characters under stress, is an exciting novel both intellectually and emotionally. You have to read to know and understand what Khushwant Singh tells about the human implication event the momentous historical event, the partition of India!



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