The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 was one of the bloodiest, brutal and harrowing events to have taken place. Hindus and Sikhs fled from their homes which are now in Pakistan; Muslims fled from their homes which are now in India.
India was to be a Hindu and Sikh state and Pakistan to be the Islamic state.
People were killed in large numbers. Trains started out filled with Islamic people in India and reached corpses in Pakistan. Trains which started in Pakistan to come to India with Hindus and Sikhs faced the same fate. Men were killed. Indian or Sikh men in Muslim areas were stripped naked and their penises were cut off. In Hindu and Sikh areas, men were stripped and every circumcised penis was killed.
Women were taken a hold of and abused and raped. Hindu and Sikh women were paraded around naked in Muslim areas before being raped by a number of men in front of a throng of onlookers. The same fate fell on Muslim women in Hindi and Sikh areas.
People killed their own children before killing themselves too. They would spare their children and themselves the horror of the Partition, where Hindu, Muslims and Sikh forgot humanity.
Nobody knows which side started the mass atrocities. But neither side stopped. Both were led by people aiming to do worse to the other side than what had been done. Fanatics with the twisted thinking to rationalise killing.
Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan revolves around a little village on the India-Pakistan border, Mano Majra. Mano Majra is in the summer of 1947, when the partition’s atrocities were underway.
Train to Pakistan is written very well. It is an old book, written in 1956(WOW!). It has various elements which were present in older books.
Train to Pakistan’s imagery is beautiful. Khushwant Singh’s Mano Majra is one of the fullest, most complete and fleshed out setting in any book I have ever read. The Fault in Our Stars, All the Bright Places, and The Shadow of the Wind have beautiful stories, but they don’t feature set locations where the story takes place, such as a city or a town.
Everything about Mano Majra is explained.
How people wake up in the morning, their morning rituals, the work they do, how and when they eat food, the interactions they have with each other and when they sleep. The structure of the village, what is at the centre, the lanes leading up to it. The world surrounding the village. The railway station, the rest house near Mano Majra, the fields near the village and the tonga used to transport people to the nearby town of Chundunnugger, where there is the police station.
The host of characters in and around Mano Majra, coming in all throughout the story are as full as Mano Majra. They are interesting, riveting and exquisitely written. You hate some, and love some. They’re all real. And depending on mind sets, everyone will love and hate different characters. That’s the power of this book’s writing.
The characters are riveting in portrayal but polarising in reception.
I curse my writing skills here. Because at times when I want to be more expressive, my skills are insufficient in completely describing my feelings.
Going on a tangent, the thing about life is that at times, things happen to people which are not fair. Maybe because they don’t have enough exposure, or maybe because there were people who were more cunning and enterprising. Such situations have happened to all of us; more often than we would like to admit. And we face these more often than the good ones.
The people in Train to Pakistan often find themselves in such situations, through no fault of their own. Due to most of our upbringing revolving around action movies and heroic caricatures of characters, we feel something heroic could have been done. But the truth is, in such situations, we all often lack the awareness, courage and spontaneity to do so.
And the ending!! I loved the ending! Another facet of life, is that in desperate times, we take desperate measures. Those desperate measures reveal who we are. The ending was perfect, so beautiful. It summed up everything, perfectly.
Like I said, my skills aren’t at the point where I can frame and tell you how much I loved the ending.
Train to Pakistan is a terrific novel. I loved it. It is a story about the Partition, people, and morality of people. It’s a book which everyone will find to be enlightening and a very fluid read.
Train To Pakistan has been the best book I’ve read in 2017 so far, which comprises of four books right now(This, A Painted House by John Grisham, I Will Marry George Clooney(by December) by Tracy Bloom, The Shakespeare Curse by J.L Carrell), this is by far the best. And this book will continue to be one of the best of 2017 as well, no matter how many more books I read this year.
An amazing book!