Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh: Book Review

Train to Pakistan book review
Ratings: Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

‘Train to Pakistan’ is one of the best-sellers by Khushwant Singh. This story is unique because it does not have a main character. It is a tale of a village; a world different from the rest of the world.

The people continue their life, untouched by the outside world. It is so genuine that one might think of it as a real historical event.

In the Train to Pakistan, we can see that the village people make their village and their people, create a different world for themselves.

Their daily routine depends on the simplest things in nature. Lifestyle is consistent, and the loyalty to their village is equal to the patriotism to the country.

People believe that they deserve everything life throws at them as a challenge given by God. We can notice in the story that true love can change a person for better.  

But the partition between Pakistan and India darkens their happiness. They become lonely and depressed.

The Multitalented Author: Khushwant Singh (1915-2014)

Khushwant Singh is an Indian author, lawyer, diplomat, journalist, and politician. He was born in Khushab district of Punjab in a Sikh family.

khushwant singh booksloveme
Author: Khushwant Singh

In India, people don’t concern much about the birthday of a kid. At that time, people used to live in a joint family. The main motive was to earn bread and butter for the members via farming or any other means.

This is the reason no one knows the exact date of birth of Khushwant Singh. For school admission, Author’s father confirms 2nd February 1915 as DOB. But, his grandmother remembers that the author was born in August.

The initial name of the author was Khushal Singh baptise by his grandmother. But, he wanted his name to rhyme with his older brother’s name, Bhagwant. So, the author changes his name to Khushwant Singh.

He studied in Modern School in New Delhi from 1920 to 1930. Also, he has done Intermediate of arts from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and B.A from Government College in Lahore.

Khushwant Singh did his LLB degree from King’s College in London, and worked as a lawyer at Lahore Court for eight years.

Khushwant Singh worked in Rajya Sabha for six years. The author earned a Padma Bhushan award in 1974, but he returned it in 1984 in the protest of ‘the siege of the Golden Temple’ by the Indian Army.

The Indian government rewarded Khushwant Singh Padma Vibhushan in 2007. He favoured the ruling of congress party and especially, Indira Gandhi.

Khushwant Singh married Kanwal Malik, his childhood friend who met him again at King’s College. Chetan Anand and Iqbal Singh were the only ones invited to their wedding.

Check out the Khushwant Singh Profile.

Some Great Works of Khushwant Singh

  • I Shall Not Hear The Nightingale
  • A History of Sikhs
  • Company of Women
  • Truth, Love And A Little Malice
  • Why I Supported The Emergency

Train to Pakistan Book Review

The story of ‘Train to Pakistan’ takes place in a little village known as Mano Majra near Punjab. The Sikhs occupy this village and have Muslims as their tenants.

The bond between them is just like brothers. No one shows the difference between religion in their behaviour.

Reading train to pakisstan
Reading Train to Pakistan

There are hardly seventy families residing in Mano Majra. The only Hindu in that area is Lala Ram Lal, the moneylender.

In the whole Mano Majra, there are only three buildings made of bricks and mortar. These are Lala Ram Lal’s house, the Sikh temple, and the mosque with a peepal tree in the middle.

The rest of the village consists of are flat-roofed mud huts and low lying courtyards. Towards the west, there’s a pond surrounded by gum trees.

Under a gum tree situated beside the mere, there is a three-foot slab of sandstone that the villagers regard as the local deity.

People of all religions worship it when they need a special blessing. The small lanes dwindle in the village into footpaths and vanish in the fields.

Mano Majra is supposed to be on the banks of the river Sutlej, but it’s half a mile away. Because during monsoon, the river stretches in width more than a mile.

After about a mile towards the north of Mano Majra, there’s a bridge constructed on the Sutlej River. It has stone embankments to help prop up the bridge.

Mano Majra has always been famous for its railway station. The bridge has only one track. So, a dockyard is available for the less crucial trains to wait until the more urgent trains pass by.

The station master himself sells tickets, collects them, sends and receives messages and, waves the flags.

The Religious Leaders

The Imam of the mosque is Imam Baksh. He wakes up when the morning train passes by, takes a quick bath, stands facing the west in Mecca’s direction with his fingers and speaks loud “Allah-o-Akbar!”. In short, he gives adhan in the Mosque.

Bhai Meet Singh, the priest of the gurudwara lies in bed till the Imam finishes Adhan. Then, he too gets up, draws water from the well and starts his prayers while splashing the water onto himself.

Imam Baksh is a man of self-respect. He is a religious man who is a faithful servant of God. His only daughter, Nooran, is sixteen years old and is in love with the badmash of the village Juggut Singh.

Imam Baksh’s eyesight is so bad that he’s almost blind. But with no availability of doctors, his vision keeps worsening.

Bhai Meet Singh is a man who decided to become a priest to avoid work. He is usually unclean and only wears short pants hardly reaching his knees.

But he performs all the duties of the gurudwara very well. Also, he is hostile to any traveller turning on his door for refuge and food.

The Imam and the Bhai, as religious leaders, help the people who come to them for the solution of their problems.

The Innocent But Arrested

Juggut Singh, known as Jugga, is the son of a dacoit who had served a death sentence for his crimes. Jugga also had had his share of dacoity before being punished and hadn’t had repeated his mistakes since.

The reason was the imam’s daughter, Nooran. Jugga had been working as a farmer and helping his mother in the fields.

His new behaviour left police no suspicion of his illegal activities. He used to report to the police station every two weeks and didn’t leave the village without prior information.

But, when Lala Ram Lal murdered, he is thrown in prison for suspicion. A set of bangles that the dacoits had thrown in his yard was sufficient proof for the police.

After consulting with the sub-inspector, the police only kept him contained to get the names of the killers. His companion in jail was a young man named Iqbal.

Iqbal was a traveller who had come to Mano Majra for social work. His arrest was an accident as he had travelled with the police after the moneylender’s death.

The sub-inspector had written his name as Mohammed Iqbal thinking he was a Muslim. Iqbal and Jugga didn’t talk much to each other as Iqbal was a man of few words.

Jugga kept trying to conversate to Iqbal and receives silence as an answer. At last, after great perseverance, Jugga got Iqbal to teach him a few words in English. After bail, Jugga and Iqbal parted ways and never met again.

What Caught My Attention:- Is this a historical event or fiction?

The part of Train to Pakistan that I loved the most is that it makes you wonder about the next happenings of the story. It is so realistic that I googled it if this incident had happened in reality.

The fact that Khushwant Singh can portray such a detailed picture in the reader’s mind is impressive. The characters in the story, their personalities, the influence of violent but captivating leaders, everything is so close to the real world.

Description of the village and the surroundings is detailed as if Singh has experienced this. In today’s world, we see so many people being carried away by greed, words, fake promises, and much more. Especially the helpless and ignorant people suffer the most because of it.

The description of the life of rural people is flawless. Plus, the curiousness of villagers on meeting a city person and inquiring him or her about urban life till the person gets tired is the funniest part.

What I Disliked About Train to Pakistan

The part that had me cringing was the love story of the magistrate with the sixteen-year-old girl. He was well in his late forties or early fifties, and as mentioned, his daughter would have been that girl’s age.

The poor girl was frightened of him, and he did nothing to make her comfortable, let alone their age difference. Even when the magistrate realised his mistake, it was still uncomfortable to read it.

Train to Pakistan insights
Train to Pakistan insights

Another uneasy part for me was when Jugga’s mother told Nooran to go away after she told jugga’s mother that she was carrying Jugga’s baby. It expresses the heartlessness of Jugga’s mother to Nooran because of their different religions even when all people are living together as a family.

Conclusion of Train to Pakistan

‘Train to Pakistan’ is a story about a fictional village and how it gets affected by the partition between India and Pakistan.

The separation of Hindustan and Pakistan has increased the misunderstandings between all religions. Thousands of people became homeless, even died, during the division.

The pros and cons have been equal. The novel explains to us that sometimes decisions are essential but may not be beneficial.

Loved it? Explore more Fiction books.

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