When I was a kid, dad read to me stories. He created vivid pictures through his narration; difficult for one to forget. I yet remember the good stories albeit vaguely. But it’s the disturbing tales that I remember so vividly that I could narrate them in one breath.
Train to Pakistan is such a story. It is more intense than one could fathom.
When I finished reading Train to Pakistan, I asked myself what was I thinking while I planned on reading this one. It surely is not what meets the eye at mere synopsis glance. It also isn’t what one would think of – a post-war scenario. No. It is a clear picture. One can see the country being torn apart, shredding humanity to pieces, leaving behind hearts that would bleed for years to come. First published in 1956, the book bore the horrendous memories of the holocaust that were still fresh in everybody’s minds.
Mano Majra is a village in the post-partition India. Muslims and Sikhs dwell unaffected by the horrific outcome of partition. They live in peace. But surrounded by mobs thirsty to rob, kill, torture and rape. It begins with the murder of the local money lender Ram Lal who was killed by a gang led by dacoit Malli but Juggut Singh, a Sikh man with bad reputation is arrested as a suspect.
Iqbal is an educated social reformer interested in politics has just arrived in the village and is also arrested for the same murder.
Hukum Chand is a powerful yet corrupt authority and had ordered arrests of Juggut and Iqbal. He is fighting a battle with himself to get rid of his guilt, an outcome of his unethical and evil treatment of the Muslims and Hindus.
As the story unfolds, we can feel tension creeping into the village. People are being misled. Rumors that would chill their nerves are making way into their hearts. People huddle in their houses after sunset. Innocent people are being put behind bars for crimes they never committed. The criminals are at loose, attacking families in villages, robbing them, murdering them.
The most horrific part yet are the trains that arrive at night loaded with corpses of thousands of people sent from Pakistan with messages that read – Gift to India from Pakistan. And each time, one of these trains arrives a depressing chill grips the village.
And finally one day, their worst fear comes true when it is ordered that all the Muslims in Mano Majra would be sent to Pakistan. They are forced to leave the village, their home. None is aware of the murderous plot that is about to take place – all Muslims are to be murdered on the train and sent to Pakistan the same way train loads of Hindus were received in India.
Iqbal, Hukum Chand, and Juggut Singh are all aware of the mass murder planned and yet it is Juggut Singh who takes a step to foul the plan of murdering Muslims on the train. On the rainy night the attack is supposed to happen, he gets in the way to save thousands of lives and gets killed in the process.
This novel gives vivid accounts of the massacres of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. It will paint a picture that will never fade from your memories. It is fiction but more of a peek into reality at the time. It is depressing, dark and dirty and yet when you are done reading, you can only feel sorry for the families who were a part of the atrocities stemming from the partition; one of the bloodiest in the history of mankind.
If you happen to read it or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.
©THE UNREAD BOOK [10.05.2016]