Professor Lou Fenech
Train to Pakistan
Train to Pakistan is a story about Pakistan and India government gaining their independence in the summer of August 15,1945. Both countries Independences caused a separation between Muslims, Sikhs, also Hinduists. This divide between the two countries caused displacement of about 12.5 million men women and children. The number of casualties was about one hundred thousand to one million. The partition caused a negative and hostile atmosphere for both Pakistan and India. Hostility is still continuing between the two countries but only different sets of rules divide the countries.
“There is a division of the country on the basis of belief systems, Singh’s narrative displays village life and how entire families are made to abandon their lives. The village life also has many people challenge themselves to realign their lives based on religious allegiance to ensure safety and survival. The resettlement, with those trying to flee, however, was anything but secure and safe for those caught up in the violence and danger. Trying to quickly avoid the oncoming troubles of possible death, people fled on cart foot, and train. As these refugees attempted to flee the violence, they often became caught up in sanctioning violence themselves or were the victims of violence as Hindus and Muslims fought all over the country.
Moreover, the trains became a way of killing large numbers of people in one place. These “ghost trains” or “funeral trains,” as they are nicknamed, are what the narrative’s title references.
For many remote villages, such as Mano Majra, supply trains were what kept them functioning. The trains’ arrivals and departures were also a part of the daily life cycle of these villages. In time, however, the trains began pulling into stations silently, overburdened with human cargo and off-schedule. People’s initial complacency soon gave way to fear and then, at times, violence, as the tensions reached the outer areas due in fact to the trains.
The novel’s narrative addresses the people of Mano Majra, a tiny village that relies on trains for its daily needs. Like other villages, the people living in the village are unconcerned with the troubling news about violence and resettlement. The village itself is made up of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and quasi-Christians, and has existed for hundreds of years in this state of cooperation. Given the diverse population, the village runs on mutual cooperation as opposed to tension and religious/political division. The villagers need one another for survival, and because of this mutual need, are kept secure in their false sense of security.
Life for the villagers of Mano Majra begins to change suddenly when the first ghost train arrives. The villagers are shocked at the number of dead and the silent train moving along the tracks. People stop working to watch from rooftops as the train goes by. When the second ghost train arrives in the village, the villagers’ lives are altered even further when they are ordered to help bury the dead passengers before the monsoon season begins. Though the order to help bury the passengers is a shocking twist for the villagers, things become achingly real and surreal for them when the Muslims in the village are ordered to evacuate the village immediately. With overtures that harken to the death trains of the holocaust during World War II, the Muslims are stripped of their possessions and only allowed to take what they can carry.
The rest of the villagers, including the Sikhs and Hindus, are then told that there will be an attack on the next train to Pakistan, and that they will assist in the attack. The soldiers will begin the attack with gunfire, and the villagers will then finish with clubs and spears. Adding to the horror of their situation, the villagers realize that the next train to Pakistan will actually be carrying the Muslims from their village, meaning their former friends and neighbors. Train to Pakistan is made all the more personal by the fact that Jugga, a Sikh thief, knows that his intended wife, who is Muslim, is one of the passengers on the train. This crisis in faith and belief causes the narrative to explore what the heart is capable of in the face of love, loss and fear. The ethnic cleansing has not begun with the first or second train to arrive in Mano Majra, and Jugga, though a thief and complicit in the killing, must now decide if this baseless violence should be perpetuated based on the fact that it is the only thing the villagers now know, or if he should transcend the current mode of thinking and speak out against the violence.
Train to Pakistan shows how themes of love, religion and allegiance cause mankind to do unthinkable things, things that include both heartbreaking actions and life-affirming ones. The book shows what one is willing to do for their people. They are all thrown into a system where the value of human life is based on caste systems, religious beliefs and politics. The villagers are but one part in a hopeless, seemingly endless cycle of bloodshed and history. The relationship between Jugga and his intended, between Sikh and Muslim, shows that, despite the death, carnage and madness, people can choose to be different, to walk a different path, even if that path might be one of self-sacrifice.” (Moose)
The main points the author wants readers to realize and understand is there are choices and every action has a reaction, being careful in the choices one makes and war will never stop especially if there are social and cultural difference. In the book,”they say the only way to stop killings on the other side. Man for man,woman for woman, child for child. But the Hindus are not like that. We can not play this stabbing game. When it comes to an open fight we can match anyone”.(Singh 29-30) Hindus are ready to go to war but do not believe in revenge and going back and forth. Personally, I believe there will always be back and forth or revenge because people are prideful and do not want to give up their beliefs and value so by any means necessary if that means war, then that what the situation has to come to.
I also believe that overall the Indian Partition did not do well because of many casualties that happened especially on the trains. The trains play a major role in the Train to Pakistan, because the trains transport refugees to and from, there destination and the trains are also what killed many people.” Mano Majra has always been known for its railroad system.” (Singh 6-8) From an outsider looking at the situation, India’s enemy(Pakistan) is going to find the best way to kill the most amount of people. From, Pakistan, it would make sense to do a place where everywhere is dependant on transportation which would be the train station which would make the people in India terrified of the situation and Pakistan ready for war. My reaction to the war was shocking because many people lost their lived and everyone was affected by the situation from India and Pakistan.
The main characters in the book all contribute in a major way. The main characters are Hukum Chand, Nooran, Juggut Singh, Iqbal, and the train. Hukum Chand is a corrupt commissioner. His responsibilities are to visit and watch over the villages and give advice to other police task force but then turned to drugs and alcohol. Nooran is Juggut Singh’s romantic lover and girlfriend, who is muslim. She wants to support Juggut Singh but can not because of his poor descions to get caught up in violence. Juggut Singh is also known as Jugga, is a local criminal who is furious with a gang member Malli. Iqbal is a British reformer and him a Juggut are both in jail for a crime they did not commit. The last character is the train. The train transports people from and to their destination but also the reason for many deaths in the country of India and Pakistan.
The characters also related with the world that we live in today.Hukum Chand is a corrupt officer that has personal problems. Which today, the police force in America is created with full of errors. Nooran who is with Juggut Singh, who are opposite from each other and you see this in a lot of relationships with opposite attracting. Nooran the sweet girl and Juggut the bad boy. Iqbal is like an activist, who is fighting for freedom which today people are still fighting for basic human rights. The train symbolizes where people go to gather and see each other. Also a place like the train station can have catistofice events happen for an example like 9/11 or the Boston Massacre which a lot of people in one area for a long time all the time to see them died which can cause war, and spark violence from the victim and the victimizer.
The hero in the book was the reformer, who is Iqbal because he is the one who is the thinker and reformer and find ways to fight for him and Juggut’s freedom and save them from being wrongly convicted of a crime they did not do. Him a Juggut are like night and day. Iqbal, the reformer is the thinker and the activist. While Juggut does not really care about the consequences of his actions.
Overall, I thought this was a good book because the book is story telling and feels like it takes you back to actually being in the time period of what was going a in India and in Pakistan. Seeing the social and cultural differences between the two countries shows the reader how the two countries went into war in the first place because both the people of India and Pakistan did not want to give up who they were. Seeing how both countries India and Pakistan were back then makes the reader see why how they are now.