Title: Train To Pakistan
Author: Khushwant Singh
Genre: History, Drama, War
At the end of the British rule in 1947, British India was partitioned into two countries on the basis of religion – a predominantly Hindu ‘India’ and similarly, a Muslim ‘Pakistan’. This led to the largest mass migration in history as millions of people from both sides packed whatever little of their belongings they could carry, leaving behind their homes and hearts in the country of their birth.
Set in the fictional Punjabi village of ‘Mano Majra’, situated near the border of India and Pakistan, ‘Train To Pakistan’ shows how partition affected the lives of the inhabitants of this village, in which Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived in harmony. All around them, Hindus and Muslims were killing each other brutally on account of Partition, but it didn’t mean much to these villagers and they were relatively isolated from the violence. All this changes when a ghost train traveling to Pakistan, pulls in to the station, causing unrest and sowing the seeds of violence in the minds of these innocent people. In this atmosphere of fear and hate, there’s also a blossoming love story, which is interrupted by the bloodshed.
Throughout the story, various characters are confronted by their own moral dilemmas, and are shown trying to resolve them in their own ways, which ultimately influences their actions. The book also throws light on the administrative lapses by the local authorities in handling the situation, due to their ineptitude and dishonesty.
A line from the book which beautifully describes the gravity of the situation is, “Muslims said the Hindus had planned and started the killing. According to the Hindus, the Muslims were to blame. The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped”.
Khushwant Singh’s fast paced narration and the engaging story make ‘Train To Pakistan’ a book which is definitely worth giving a read.