Book Review: Train To Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

History is cruel. Time is ruthless. Both proved themselves in true form, when undivided India was partitioned into two halves. The year was 1947. Train To Pakistan by Khushwant Singh is based on those times.


The tiny village of Mano Majra, situated close to the Sutlej River, one of the largest rivers in the Punjab... is the main setting of the story.  Mano Majra is not of much significance, though, both Hindus and Muslims were stabbing, spearing, clubbing each other, when the division occurred.  But, here, in this insignificant village, suddenly things change.  What follows with the change is narrated by the author.


The book is a highly acclaimed novel describing the tumultuous birth of Pakistan.  The partition resulted in the Hindu-Muslim migration, and as the very large numbers moved, communal riots broke; property was burnt and looted, families were disrupted, millions were killed.


The storyline of Train To Pakistan is about a notorious fellow, a Sikh peasant, Jugga, who is in love with a Muslim girl by the name of Nooran.  When the moneylender in the village is found murdered, the suspicion falls on Juggat Singh (Jugga), and he is arrested. What follows is rapid and interesting. Jugga is in love with Nooran and she becomes pregnant through him.  By then, the butcherings between their communities have begun.  Jugga, Hukum Chand, Iqbal, Nooran are the chief characters in the book.


The reality of those tragic times, provides a heart-wrenching depth for the reader.  Khushwant Singh recounts the division of the region with his natural and simple style of writing.  It is a historical novel, published in 1956.


When the creation of the state of Pakistan was formally announced, 10 million people – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs were in flight.


Though, Train To Pakistan is fiction, the foundation of the book becomes real with factual reality.  The content gives a picture of social, political, emotional angles that existed at that time.


Khushwant Singh is known for his wry wit.  The small village on the Punjab border, by the Sutlej, and all those characters in charge of facing the ravages of revenge and hate in torn societies, make the plot special.


The book is less than 200 pages, published by Penguin.  In 1998, Hindi film adaptation from the book was produced.


Khushwant Singh was a columnist, he was also the founder-editor of Yojana and the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India.


His other books are: Delhi &, I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale.  He wrote his last novel at the age of 95.  The caption of the book is, The Sunset Club.



Geeta Chhabra

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