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Train to Pakistan

The describes the time of partition of India.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 12:21 IST
Shivani Kapoor
Shivani Kapoor

Train to Pakistan
Khushwant Singh
Price — Rs 45 
Publication — Time Books International

Partition of India — one of the most heart-wrenching chapters in the world history, where more than a million people were killed or dislodged from their dwelling. Khushwant Singh, who was over thirty at the time of partition wrote Train to Pakistan in 1956.

Translated into many languages, the novel depicts the humane dimension of this gruesome tragedy. The author recreates a tiny village in Punjab. In barely over two hundred pages, we are introduced to a powerful cast — the district magistrate Hukum Chand, a forlorn realist, his subordinate a sub-inspector, the village rogue ‘Jugga’, a Sikh always in and out of prison, and Iqbal, an educated social worker.

The village, Mano Majra, is on the railway line that crosses river Sutlej. The inhabitants, are mostly Sikh farmers and their Muslim tenants who have remained relatively untouched by the bloodshed. When the village money-lender, a Hindu, is murdered, Jugga and Iqbal are rounded up.

Things take an ugly turn when a train full of corpses make an unscheduled stop at Mano Majra. This train was the first gory incident witnessed by the villagers.

The most poignant passage in the book is the point where the government makes the decision to transport all the Muslim families from Mano Majra to Pakistan.

A convoy of soldiers arrive in the village and orders the Muslims to board within 10 minutes. The inhabitants don’t even get a chance to bid goodbye.

Khushwant Singh, an unconventional columnist and author, has infused this book with his compassion for humanity. He has put in a lot at stake by trying to recreate the memory of a tragedy too horrible to forget.