Train to Pakistan Redux?

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Khann Ahmad Hilal

There are many novels and books that give us the history of the subcontinebt and a backdrop of Partition, but after reading Khushwant Singh’s ‘Train To Pakistan’ I had a recall of my village Keran where I was born and brought up. The fate of this village like Mano Majra in the novel is similar when 90% of this fateful village’s population crossed the LoC in the 1990’s upsurge, the price which we still are paying. Train to Pakistan is a particular story that is about one whole dividing into parts, one country parting into two and one village- and several others in that case- getting devastated in the chaos. With a backdrop of summer 1947, this novel revolves around the lives of several innocent Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims that pay the price of the fight between two communities. One needs to read this book (or watch the movie adapted from the novel) to understand and recognize the detailed chaos and destruction that the Partition caused. And also, here’s why:

Theme of Partition
‘The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped.’
The theme of partition has been lent significance not only in political change, but also has a focal point to the local change and an immaculate portrayal of the real effect of partition on the lives of people. The story revolves around Mano Majra, a small village where the villagers, both Muslims and Sikhs, live together in a little world of their own and share their joys, sorrows and love. Being a remote village, it is ignorant of the happenings of the outside world. But towards the end, when the reality of partition hits the village from outside, its destruction is inevitable.

The role of a train in the novel
The train plays a crucial role in the story. In the beginning of the novel, it was symbolised as peace: the arrival and departure of the trains regulated the daily activities of the village. But towards the end of the novel, the train was symbolized as death and disaster: disturbing the peaceful life of the villagers, bringing the stories of the partition to the village and breaking the brotherhood and kinship between them.
The chaos begins when a train full of thousands of dead Sikhs arrives in the village. And even before the villagers recover from this, the lake beside the village flows with water of corpses!

Influence of the Author
A good story has always been known to possess a subjective outlook and a hold of personal experiences spinning the story around and making it seem more real. Khushwant Singh was himself a Sikh and drawing out experiences and his own real-life details, he has added life to the novel and made it evermore heartfelt and authentic.

The Climax
To save a thousand Muslims who will pass the bride from Mano Majra is now only impossible in the eyes of the police and the whole village. The novel, here, signifies implicitly how Indians, no matter Sikh or Hindu, have always to abide by the rules of ‘no violence’ and portray love and affection even to those who belong to a different community such as Muslim. The carefully built up climactic scenes, the kinship of villagers and the urgency to save Muslims of their own village will keep you on the edge of your seat until the anticipated suspense gets revealed

The author lives in Keran , Kupwara and works in the Revenue Department. He can be reached at: