Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

a tale worth telling…
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Title: Train to Pakistan

ISBN: 978-0143065883

Author: Khushwant Singh

Publisher: Penguin, 2016

Page: 192

Reviewed by: Preetinder Kaur, Ashvamegh Contributor

Buy the book: Amazon

In spite of volumes being written about life before, during and after the Indo-Pak partition, ‘Train to Pakistan’ clearly stands apart. How the brotherhood between two major communities of a small peaceful village transforms to hatred and loathe overnight under the existing scenario, is unbelievably surprising. Murders, thefts, molestations, massacres, over just a short span of time are enough to send shivers down your spine.

The story centres around a town names Mano Majra, in which “Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in peace for thousands of years.” The partition of the country into a Hindu state (India) and a Muslim one (Pakistan) at first barely affect this community, but soon refugees are travelling the lone daily train that stops in this remote village, and tensions begin to build. The breaking point comes when a train filled with corpses arrives and demonstrates to the residents the horrors of the civil war raging around them. Suddenly neighbour turns on neighbour, and paranoid plots are developed. People who had been close friends suddenly regard one another as vicious enemies, and (of course) a Romeo and Juliet subplot develops a young Sikh in love with a young Muslim. While parts of the story seem contrived, it does present a very convincing view of a world divided by religious intolerance and fear.

The plot goes from being horrifying to disturbing, all the while keeping the readers’ interest intact. The mentality of villagers, their opinion on freedom and independence, the lawmakers and law changers, have all been wonderfully described. The dilemmas and the questions raised by the author, be it in terms of religion, ethics or goodness make you pause and ponder over the issue. All the characters with their various strengths and weaknesses give the story a strong foundation. Add to it, the moral paradox has so beautifully been written that one can just hope for the book to go on and on.