I was contemplating reading one of the most amazing books “Train to Pakistan” written by a brilliant writer Khushwant Singh, and it is not because of the no. of pages that I was delaying reading it, but the horrors that I would have to face reading it was what scared me.
I am an imaginative person and just reading it’s short summary had me in a pre-independent India and I would never imagine to have survived the atrocities people had to face, just so they could see another day and the cycle would continue until it didn’t and their soul was free with their body crossing either side of the border in utter silence with thousands others.
The book is set in a small village of Mano Majra touching the India Pakistan border. It doesn’t even have a population of hundreds, the people here are unaware of the storm brewing all over the country and are happy and content with their lives, but the real trouble starts when a group of goons kill the local moneylender, whose murder is pinned on the local badmash (goon), who had a reputation of jail being his second home, but this time his only crime was falling for a muslim girl. More trouble started when the regular trains which were the village’s morning alarm and midnight reminder since the time anybody could remember had their timings changed and some days there was no sign of those trains. Amidst all the chaos a stranger finds himself on the infamous station of this small village, and he seeks refuge in the village gurudwara and claims his name to be Iqbal, just Iqbal, which was a dangerous name to have at that time, as no one could say for sure if he was a Muslim or a Sikh and he preferred to leave that a mystery. Iqbal was from Delhi, who came to an unknown village in search of recognition among his colleagues for doing something just heroic enough. But he didn’t know what destiny had in store for him, as he along with Juggut singh( the local badmaash) was arrested for the murder of the moneylender. Although it was later found that Iqbal had arrived a day after the incident, the policeman were too proud to admit their mistake and wanted to pin him for anything they could think of, and what better way is there to harass an innocent person named Iqbal than just assuming him to be a Muslim in a village with Sikh majority.
The police force and army had also started to increase near the border, in Mano Majra and many such neighbouring villages. Amongst such tensions one day a train came to a halt at the station, even the engine made no sound. The police saw what was inside, but the villagers got all anxious as to what was so special about an empty train that they had to be restricted to remain inside their homes. It was only later, when a policeman came and asked for wood, every single piece anyone had to offer was to be given to them to burn all the bodies that came from Pakistan. There was not one, not hundred but thousands of corpses without any identity, women in conditions that were beyond worse, children dead in the arms of their mother and men just scattered on the never ending floor of the dreaded train. The scene was so horrifying, it startled me just to imagine that. After this incident this became quite a routine, as in some days a train would pass, sometimes stopping carrying thousands of corpses either of Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims, but always of a human being who did nothing to deserve the death that he/she had to suffer.
The Hindu Muslim war till now had no effect on the people of Mano Majra and all of them lived harmoniously. But as they say all good things come to an end, soon the Muslims being the minority were asked to leave the village for the camp holding all the others. First, they resisted and even the villagers did not wish for them to be gone, but when given an ultimatum they were forced to say goodbye to their homeland and their friends.
After a few days, police also had to let Iqbal and Juggut out as they were afraid of who might come looking for Iqbal, and they might lose their job. When Juggut came out, he came to know about the Muslims leaving the village and was outraged by the fact, as his Nooro was also one of them. He also came to know about the trains that had been passing through the village station and later got the information that it was the next day that the train carrying Mano Majra muslims was supposed to go to Pakistan. Though a goon, he was still a man in love and couldn’t bear the thought of separating from his love. He asked about the camp whereabouts and train timings from the policemen, who had no interest in some lowlife, so they showed no interest in him. The armed men had a plan that had been prepared to kill all the people in the train as an act of revenge.
Unaware of the plans others had for the incoming train, Juggut was on the station to do whatever he could. As he reached there he understood the gravity of the situation and knowing what he did he couldn’t just let his Nooro die. So, as the train was approaching, the plan was to tie a strong rope just above the train so all the people sitting on top would be swept off, thus giving the armed people on ground a clear chance to shoot inside the train and kill as many people at once. But Juggut ran for the station bridge and got on the rope to cut it, as the train was getting closer, the plan was falling apart and the rope was getting loose.
The train passed away quietly, with just the hustle bustle of the people inside, this time not with thousands of dead bodies inside, but just one lifeless one on the lone tracks of Mano Majra, a local goon who just wanted to protect his love and his unborn child.
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Hi, my name is Deeksha Agarwal. I recently completed my B.Tech from JIIT Noida. I am a person who loves to stay at home, read books, watch Netflix all day and sometimes paint and draw to let my self expression out.