Train To Pakistan is a novel by the illustrious lawyer, journalist, politician and the novelist Khushwant Singh.First published in 1956, this historical fiction covers the dark days of 1947 India – Pakistan Partition like no other. The communal riots were like insane wild-fire that spared none in its vicinity.
The book is by no means a historical account of what happened during the partition. It however illustrates superbly, the explosive environment that gripped the two infant nations. Who would have thought that as peaceful and unsophisticated village like Mano Majra would be incinerated by the loss of lives, the souring of relationships, the distrust, betrayal and paranoia! All that the village needed was one unsuspecting flare to kindle the blaze.
Mano Majra is a small place in Punjab on the borders of India and Pakistan, only half a mile from the Sutlej river. There is only one Hindu family, that of the money-lender. Others are Sikhs or Muslims. Untouched and oblivious of the madness spewing in the large cities of Delhi and Lahore and many others, this countryside was quite harmonious until the murder of Ram Lal, the village money-lender. It was as if the murder was foreshadowing the upcoming chaos. Then started the deluge of trains filled with corpses, lying lifeless by the thousands. As if this was not satiating enough for the politics of the babus, they enamored of creating a communal divide that was unheard of in this village; all in the name of ever elusive peace! And among all this was sacrificed love – love for humanity and the love of humans.
Not forever does the bulbul sing
In balmy shades of bowers,
Not forever lasts the spring
Nor ever blossom flowers.
Not forever reigneth joy,
Sets the sun on days of bliss,
Friendships not forever last,
They know not life, who know not this.
Train To Pakistan, is the first novel I have read from the author and it has left quite an impression on me. The language in the book is quite lucid. The narration is in third person and the interplay of simplicity with changing times is brought out exceptionally well. The characters are just as real as you and me. Situations in the book evoke powerful emotions, limited only by the imagination of its readers. To depict the struggles of the gargantuan genocide that took place during the partition of India and Pakistan in such frankness is the most striking feature of the novel. To me, this book is certainly an Indian Classic!