I feel stupid merely thinking of reviewing the Khushwant Singh's book, Train to Pakistan but of course, it has to be done, and so, here it goes:
Train to Pakistan is the story of the small village of Mano Majra. It starts at the time of partition, soon after when the English have left India leaving a broken country in their wake. The muslims have fled to Pakistan and have had their independence for a day already. And now that the Britishers are gone, the sense of religion has been increasing ten-folds. The love between the Hindus and the Muslims has been replaced by hatred and this hatred is becoming evident in the large number of corpses flying here and there. However, despite all of this, the small village of Mano Majra is safe. It has a train station but very few trains stop by and so, they generally do not have any information about what is happening in Delhi. Besides, these people have known each other for a long time. They do not hold any enmity toward each other because of their religion. All is well until the murder of the richest money lender in the village. That one night changes everything.
What makes this novel special (other than the fact that it is an Indian classic) is the fact that throughout its entirety, it is a rather uneventful story. Things happen but they do not hold a very huge importance. The most important event in this novel, in fact, the highlight of this novel is the climax. That is also where the book takes its name from.
Another special thing about this novel is that it talks of a time when Hindus and Muslims lived together in harmony. There is also a young couple here—a Muslim girl and a Sikh boy—both of who have fallen in love with each other (another thing that sets the climax). So in a way, this story is also a love story, although that is not the primary theme of it (for which I'm rather glad myself). Anyway, what I intend to say by mentioning this couple is that despite the time of turbulence in the country, and despite the situation in the rest of the country (or rather, two countries), people in Mano Majra live happily. That is, until a few policemen come and try to diverge the two communities. They take the Muslims away with the intention of taking them to Pakistan and then a few more Hindu come with the intention of harming them in their trains, of sending a train of corpses to Pakistan. And in that moment, the Sikhs of Mano Majra forget their brotherhood for the sake of religion. Through all of this, Khushwant Singh shows the situation of India and Pakistan, of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and how, in the end, religion is the easiest way to persuade someone to do something.
This book perfectly captures the horrors of the partition of India. Despite the brutalism, I still believe this book was rather sugar-coated by Singh in order to make it readable by all people. I loved the book for showing about the culture of Punjab, about the pre-partition situation in small villages of Punjab and above all, displaying how the police system has always been weak in India. Bringing Iqbal behind the bars proves just that. So overall, I'm rather happy for having come across a book like this. It reminded me of the hard times the two nations of India and Pakistan have faced in their past (and continue to face even today—71 and a half years later. A definite recommendation.