Train to Pakistan
Train to Pakistan is a novel written by Khushwant Singh published in the year 1956. The novel revolves around the Indian Independence era in August 1947. The novel not only depicts the separation in terms of political happenings surrounding it but also takes its readers into a hidden local center, providing a social aspect that brings to the event a sense of realism, fear and plausibility. Following is the statement from the novel’s summary, which reads,
“In the summer of 1947, when the creation of the new state of Pakistan was formally announced, ten million people- Muslims and Sikhs- were in fight. By the time the monsoon broke, almost a million of them were dead, and all of Northern India was in arms, in terror, or in hiding. The only remaining passes of peace were a scatter of little villages lost in the remote reaches of the frontier. One of these villages is Mano Majra.”
Mano Majra is a small place situated around the Indian Pakistan Border. The novel revolves around the typical religious aspects rather than political aspects that were less discovered by other authors at that time. This place like any other place from that period displayed the brotherhood between The Sikhs and the Muslims for the past hundreds of years. The situation took a turn when one day, at the end of the summer, the burial train arrives, a still, a train loaded with the bodies of thousands of refugees, bringing the village its first glance of the political religious conflicts.
The story revolves around the clashing perspective of different characters and some of the main characters were a magistrate, a sub inspector- Hukum chand, Banta Singh who is a village head. The two other main characters that are given a lot of attention are Iqbal Singh and Juggut Singh. Iqbal is portrayed as a slightly effeminate, well-educated social worker from Britain who thinks politically. Juggut is a towering, muscular, and uneducated villager who places action over thought and is known for frequent arrests and gang problems.
The story took a turn when a situation leashes out and they learnt that a gang was planning to attack that train taking Mano Majra’s Muslim population to Pakistan and kill the passengers, also Juggut’s muslim lover Nooran was also supposed to be on that train. Both of them had the potential to save the train, though it was recognized that this might cost their lives. Juggut nonetheless acts on instinct and risks his life to save the train whereas on the other hand Iqbal kept wondering about the other aspects related to it at that moment. This novel is one of the classic novels of Partition, offering a feel for how the lives were went through in the Punjab.