Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Indian fiction

Source – personal copy

I ran a bit late and here is my last 1956 club book. It is one I have been wanting to read for a number of years as it is considered a classic of Indian fiction and one of the best books about the partition of Pakistan and India. Khushwant Singh Studied in London law and was called to the bar after that. He then worked in Lahore before partition and in the Indian foreign service these experiences lead to him writing this book about the events in 1947. He was later an editor and journalist for various publications. He also was a politician later in his life.

The summer of 1947 was not like other Indian summers. Even the weather had a different feel in India that year. It was hotter than usual and drier and dustier. And the summer was longer, No one could remember when the monsoon had been so late. For weeks, the sparse clouds cast only shadows. There was no rain. People began saying that God was punishing them for their sins

This is the opening and that long hot summer is felt like a pressure cooker of events that year.

The beauty of this book is how he chooses to use one single village that until the events of 1947 the village of Mano Marija is on the border between the two new countries as the partition is happening until then it has seen all that lived there which is a mix of both Sikhs, Hindus and Muslim. In fact the only three brick built building s are the respective temples for each religion.We have shown events the events which happen after a money lender Ram lal is murdered the suspicion falls on Jugga. When he has things taken in the robbery that lead to the moneylender’s death. This is all going to be looked at by the second main character Hukum Chand he is a magistrate that has come to see events the village has a regular train from Pakistan that arrives on a set schedule. One day Iqbal arrives on the same train as some police reinforcements this young man is very political and seems out of place in this small village. As time moves on the three main characters can Jugga prove he was just set up and what happens when the train stops coming but also when there are dead Sikhs who are caught between the two in this situation on the train from Pakistan?

The train this morning was only an hour late- almost like pre-war days. When it steamed in, the crying of hawkers on the platform and the passengers rushing about and shouting to each other gave the impression that many people would be getting off. But when guard blew his whistle for depature, most of them were back on the train. Only a solitary sikh peasant carrying an Ironshod bamboo staff followed by his wife with an infant resting on her hip remained with the Hawkers on the platform.The man hoisted their rolled bedding onto his head it there with one hand, In the other he carried a large tin of clarified butter.

The trains arrival is the heartbeat of the village as passengers and hawkers are about !

This is a short book but one of those that is like an epic in a way as it has so many little threads and little side stories about those around this small village. Yes, the village is small but the events there reflect the events in both countries as Partition happened as people tried to get to the side they wanted. The village is run by the train that comes through as everyone arrives for the train coming those selling things to the passengers and the Villagers. Then those wanting to go and come to the village in the three main characters we see the official side the political idealist. This is one of those books that everyone that has no idea of the chaos of this time and the violence that followed partition is worth reading. Have you read this classic?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roughghosts
    Oct 12, 2020 @ 19:36:13

    Great review, Stu. This book really opened my eyes to the fact that Independence was not the end of the story. And that ending! I don’t think I ever been so afraid to turn the last pages of a book.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Oct 12, 2020 @ 23:58:06

    I have indeed read this one, Stu, thanks to Vishy the Knight whose recommendations for IndianLit I commend to everyone. Train to Pakistan was my first choice from his list, and I felt my world view shift as I read it because prior to that what I knew of India was from BBC adaptations from Paul Scott’s Raj novels. This is my review, there are spoilers for those who haven’t read the novel. https://anzlitlovers.com/2013/08/11/train-to-pakistan-by-khushwant-singh/

    Reply

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Oct 13, 2020 @ 09:12:18

    No worries about being late, Stu, and what a great choice. Partition really had a dramatic and violent effect, though I’ve only read a little about it.

    Reply

  4. TravellinPenguin
    Oct 16, 2020 @ 23:03:23

    I’ve not heard of this but I do enjoy stories about India. Such an interesting country. Hope you’re staying well over there. 🤠⚘🐧

    Reply

  5. Liz Dexter
    Oct 17, 2020 @ 07:07:32

    I read this quite a long time ago – I don’t think I could face it now. it’s so important a read, though.

    Reply

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