Train to Pakistan, the first novel on the theme of Partition, is a brilliant and realistic story of political hatred, violence, and of mass passions during those turbulent. Abstract—This research aims to explore the heteroglot world of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus in a Sikh village in. Khushwant Singh's novel, Train to Pakistan. Mano Majra is a place, Khushwant Singh tells us at the beginning of this classic novel, where Sikhs and Muslims have lived together in peace for hundreds of.
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First published in , Train to Pakistan is a classic of modern Indian fiction. . trains, only two, one from Delhi to Lahore in the mornings and the other from. Published in the e-book form plus paper copies. trated golden jubilee edition of Khushwant Singh’s novel Train to Pakistan () Pakistan, Khushwant Singh, Margaret Bourke-White, Life magazine, postmemory. Chatterji 1 Marc Chatterji Train to Pakistan: against Mainstream Representations of the Partition of India? The trouble is precisely that no wicked heart.
Alongside celebrations that marked the end of the British Raj, it is estimated that mass migrations and violent conflicts caused the death of one million people, while ten million others were made refugees and 75, women were abducted and raped Butalia 3. Since then, on the various sides of borders, the representations of this era have been paradoxical. On the one hand, in public monuments1, school textbooks2 and perhaps the work of some historians3, there has been a tendency to focus on the grand narrative of national liberation and to turn a blind eye on the Partition and its violence.
On the other hand, survivors — whether they be victims, culprits or witnesses — have often kept an indelible memory of the horror of these events4. One could therefore oppose a mainstream a counter- representation of the Partition in terms of forgetting and remembering. In this context, works of fiction have been seen as sites of memory and contestation.
To quote two historians: It is in this respect that Train to Pakistan, written by Khushwant Singh and published in , is often considered a foundational novel Mehrotra ; Coussy 42; Roy , one that reveals the horror of a forgotten past with both realism and bitterness Raizada ; Pabby ; Wolpert ix6. Train to Pakistan, in this perspective, both undermines and upholds mainstream representations of the Partition.
In one significant passage, the narrator reports the thoughts of Hukum Chand, the Magistrate of the small village of Mano Majra where the novel is set. Powerless in the face of mounting tensions, he exclaims: Where was the power? What were the people in Delhi doing? Making fine speeches in the assembly! I do think he is the greatest man in the world today. By playing with pronouns — replacing the first person singular with the second person plural, as shown in italics — he questions the idea of national experience.
For some, having a tryst with destiny means taking part in fancy ceremonies; for others, it implies dying in the most terrible circumstances. This ironic discrepancy creates a tone of bitterness. Chand then recalls the fate of three of his acquaintances: No one was allowed to get off. So did everyone else. Sunder Singh gave them his urine to drink. Then that dried up too so he pulled out his revolver and shot them all.
Then he lost his nerve. He put his revolver on his temple but did not fire. There was no point in killing himself. The train had begun to move. He did not redeem the pledge.
Only his family did ; emphasis added. By effecting a change in the scale and the subject of history, the glorious hypotext of independence is transformed into an outraged hypertext of Partition that refuses to countenance the silencing of victims7.
Khushwant Singh himself seems to have strongly believed in the importance, or even the duty to remember the events of Nevertheless, is it not possible to detect more subtle and insidious forms of forgetting in Train to Pakistan?
A number of narratives — both historiographical and testimonial — keep the violence of at a certain distance.
To quote a historian: In this type of representation, barbaric acts are silenced when they are mentioned and forgotten just as they are remembered; attributing responsibility to someone else is a way to exonerate oneself while also reducing violence to a marginal phenomenon. The villagers of Mano Majra are the subjects of the narrative in a narratological sense; simply put, they are the actants whose quest it is to resist an expansion of communalism coming from the outside9. In the initial situation, Mano Majra is described as a pastoral utopia, an oasis of peace in a desert of violence The humble village is organised symbolically around a sacred banyan tree, itself surrounded by the Sikh temple, the mosque and the residence of the only Hindu villager.
The depiction of local customs and beliefs in the iterative present creates an impression of permanence and the inhabitants seem to live outside of history until Partition: Then comes a series of four trials for the villagers.
Firstly, violence erupts when the only Hindu inhabitant is assassinated by criminals coming from a nearby village — Malli and his gang — and a train of corpses stops at the village.
Tension mounts but the members of both Hindu and Sikh communities gather under the banyan tree until the arrival of the police. Secondly, Hukum Chand tries to sow discord in Mano Majra to encourage the Muslims to leave for Pakistan and thus maintain law and order.
He has Malli released and spreads a rumour according to which the murder was committed by Muslim League activists.
The naive villagers fall into the trap: The Sikhs meet in the temple and some want to draw blood. When the Muslims join them, however, friendship overcomes animosity and a scene of reconciliation ensues. Little do they know that the soldiers in charge of the transfer will deport the Muslims to Pakistan and force them to leave most of their belongings behind. When the Sikh villagers refuse to seize those goods, Malli and another group of outsiders accept.
The complicity between intruders and the solidarity among villagers is explicit: It is all settled, said the Sikh officer, speaking softly in Punjabi. I have arranged that these people from the next village will look after the cattle, carts, and houses, till it is over.
I will have a list made and sent over to you. His colleague did not reply. He had a sardonic smile on his face. Mano Majra Sikhs and Muslims looked on helplessly. Once again, it is Malli and some unknown refugees who volunteer first: They were followed by many others, mostly refugees. Some villagers who had only recently wept at the departure of their Muslim friends also stood up to volunteer. He falls to his death after cutting the rope set up above the railway line to kill those sitting on the roof and to force the train to a stop, thereby saving his lover Nooran and the rest of the Mano Majra Muslims.
Chatterji 6 In Train to Pakistan, therefore, violence is carried out by the opponents of the narrative: The villagers are not responsible because they are manipulated, nor are they guilty since the only crime they could have committed is prevented and atoned for by a sacrifice.
Their only fault, it seems, is their innocence. The answer depends on our perception of dominant discourses. Among the two types of forgetting that have been dealt with silence and self- exoneration , one was mentioned in Train to Pakistan but the other was inspired by the reading of historiography. Perhaps this can explain why the first has attracted the attention of literary critics while the second has not.
It might therefore be time to use the latest works of historians to revisit other Partition novels from a fresh perspective. Chatterji 7 Notes 1. Since , two monuments dedicated to the memory of Partition victims have been erected: To be precise, historians have long written about the relations between the Congress and the Muslim League until the Radcliffe Line was drawn in However, it has only been a dozen years since some have started to conduct interviews with survivors see Butalia; Pandey; Menon and Bhasin.
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