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Book Train to Pakistan (Lotus Collection (Series)) by Khushwant Singh (2006-03-01)


Train to Pakistan (Lotus Collection (Series)) by Khushwant Singh (2006-03-01)

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Review Text

  • By Luan Gaines on April 12, 2002

    The summer of the Partition of India in 1947 marked a season of bloodshed that stunned and horrified those living through the nightmare. Entire families were forced to abandon their land for resettlement to Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. Once that fateful line was drawn in the sand, the threat of destruction became a reality of stunning proportions. Travelers clogged the roads on carts, on foot, but mostly on trains, where they perched precariously on the roofs, clung to the sides, wherever grasping fingers could find purchase. Muslim turned against Hindu, Hindu against Muslim, in their frantic effort to escape the encroaching massacre. But the violence followed the refugees. The farther from the cities they ran, the more the indiscriminate killing infected the countryside, only to collide again and again in a futile attempt to reach safety. Almost ten million people were assigned for relocation and by the end of this bloody chapter, nearly a million were slain. A particular brutality overtook the frenzied mobs, driven frantic by rage and fear. Women were raped before the anguished eyes of their husbands, entire families robbed, dismembered, murdered and thrown aside like garbage until the streets were cluttered with human carnage.The trains kept running. For many remote villages the supply trains were part of the clockwork of daily life, until even those over-burdened trains, off-schedule, pulled into the stations, silent, no lights or signs of humanity, their fateful cargo quiet as the grave. At first the villagers of tiny Mano Majra were unconcerned, complacent in their cooperative lifestyle, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and quasi-Christian. Lulled by distance and a false sense of security, the villagers depended upon one another to sustain their meager quality of life, a balanced system that served everyone's needs. There had been rumors of the arrival of the silent "ghost trains" that moved quietly along the tracks, grinding slowly to a halt at the end of the line, filled with slaughtered refugees.When the first ghost train came to Mano Majra the villagers were stunned. Abandoning chores, they gathered on rooftops to watch in silent fascination. With the second train, they were ordered to participate in burying the dead before the approaching monsoons made burial impossible. But reality struck fear into their simple hearts when all the Muslims of Mano Majra were ordered to evacuate immediately, stripped of property other than what they could carry. The remaining Hindus and Sikhs were ordered to prepare for an attack on the next train to Pakistan, with few weapons other than clubs and spears. The soldiers controlled the arms supply and would begin the attack with a volley of shots. When the people realized that this particular train would be carrying their own former friends and neighbors, they too were caught, helpless in the iron fist of history, save one disreputable (Hindu) dacoit whose intended (Muslim) wife sat among her fellow refugees. The story builds impressive steam as it lurches toward destiny, begging for the relief of action. In the end, the inevitable collision of conscience and expediency looms like a nacreous cloud above the hearts of these unsophisticated men, a mere slender thread of hope creating unbearable tension.I was impressed with the power of Singh's timeless narrative, as the characters are propelled toward a shattering climax, as potentially devastating as any incomprehensible actions of mankind's penchant for destruction. I was struck also, by the irony: how the proliferation of a rail system that infused previously unknown economic growth potential to formerly remote areas, also became the particular transport of Death. Only a few years earlier, a rail system in another part of the world carried innumerable Jews to Hitler's ovens, another recent barbaric use of Progress, originally intended to further enrich the potential accomplishments of the human race.

  • By A customer on February 23, 2004

    This book is a complete waste of time. The author shoud have this book a fiction and it would have worked.

  • By Kenneth Le Abeywickrama on November 3, 2014

    This book is set against the background of the greatest tragedy of the modern Indian sub- continent – the partition into India and Pakistan and the Hindu-Moslem riots that caused over a million gruesome murders, countless millions who were physically maimed and two nations that seem scared forever by anger and hatred against each other. The story is set in a small obscure Indian village, Mano Majra, which is noteworthy only because of its small station on the Indo-Pakistan railway link. The good people of this mixed village of Hindus and Muslims have lived in peace for centuries with cordial relations among both religious communities that respected each others religions and customs. They have isolated themselves from the brutality that prevails elsewhere, even despite the arrival of trainloads of dead bodies of Hindus that arrive from Pakistan and are buried here in secrecy on the orders of higher government authorities that seek to contain the violence. But lower level public officials and military officers conspire to instigate violence against the local Muslim community with elaborate plans to create discord.Hukum Chand, the magistrate and the deputy commissioner for the district, is the quintessential Indian government lower-level babu that the author loves to hate. A corrupt, lecherous fellow who has risen in the ranks by toadying to his superiors, he puts together an elaborate plan to create dissension and violence in the village which he could later use to gain commendation by pretending to avert the tragedy.The protagonists are Iqbal Singh, a young foreign educated communist social worker who comes to the village to awaken the poor, and Juggut Singh, a notorious illiterate bandit descended from a family of dacoits. Both of them have been prepared as the fall guys for the violence against the Muslim community that the officialdom has prepared by being arrested and detained by the police on false charges and then freed before the planned mass murder of Muslims which can later be blamed on them. But when the train to Pakistan is loaded with Muslim villagers who are set to be massacred shortly after leaving the train station, the mettle of the two heroes is tested. Iqbal Singh, the communist social worker and idealist who came to save the village is unwilling to intervene in this planned tragedy and finds rational intellectual reasons for his behaviour. It is the fearsome illiterate dacoit, Juggut Singh, outraged by the actions of outsiders creating this violence in his own village, together with his love for a Muslim girl in the train, who bravely executes a desperate plan that foils the murderers and in the process willingly submits to an act of self-sacrifice and a horrible death.It is a novel of suspense and riveting tension. It is a story of the contrived corruption of innocence and the final triumph of simple rural values over urban sophistication.

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