Thursday, September 18, 2014

Train to Pakistan - Khushwant Singh

Train to Pakistan - Khushwant Singh
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh is a modern Indian classic. It has been converted into a movie and also is included in the list of must read books for every Indian. From the title itself any Indian can understand that the book deals with the one of the difficult times in Indian history, i.e. the partition of India. I have been planning to read this book for long and I finally grabbed it when I saw it in my office Library.

Khushwant Singh deals with the struggles an ordinary Indian faced at the time of Independence by the way of a smile story based in the fictional village of Mano Majra. An village where the words Partition or Independence doesn't mean much to the Sikhs and Muslims living there. A situation that rapidly changes with the murder of  a hindu moneylender, Ram Lal. 

Khushwant Singh has beautifully explored the various problems India faced at the time of Independence; such as class system, government corruption, and a large population with very little or no education through his various characters. 

An example would be the characters of Aqbal and Juggut. Aqbal, a social worker who is very well educated compared with Juggut, a poor illiterate peasant.  Even when both of them are arrested, Aqbal was treated very well compared to Juggut because education placed them both in two different class levels. Aqbal was a class “A” prisoner who was provided with warm food, good beds, and newspaper to read and write while Juggut a class “C” prisoner whose food was thrown at him.

Similarly, Khushwant Singh explored government corruption through Hukum Chand, a deputy inspector who would knowingly break laws such as having sex with prostitutes or arresting someone without justifiable cause or evidence. Singh  further shows how when passions are aroused, sensible talk or thought is thrown our of the window and mob mentality rises.

The ending of the novel is disappointing when you read it. Its only when you close the book and think do you realise the message Khushwant Singh is conveying: action is never political; it is always personal. Nobody is going to get up and do a thing for anyone else unless it's for someone they love and  it's something that comes from the heart.

This book is an absolute must read for every single person who cares about Hindu-Muslim harmony. If not for the graphic description of death I would suggest making this book a must read for all school children.  The book is meant to make you think of your actions and thoughts to the society at large.  I would give this book a rating of 3.5/5

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