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Monday, 31 August 2015

The Train Leaves

I doubt if I have a right to "review" the works of Khushwant Singh. One simply does not review a legend's works - but reveres them for the stellar quality that they stand for.  Nevertheless, I will attempt to share my thoughts on his magnum opus - The Train to Pakistan.

Set in Mano Majra, the entire story is compressed into all of three chapters that have a rather ballad-like feel to them. Fresh after Partition, a village that was mostly idyllic until a train arrives, packed with corpses. In a battle of sorts between intelligence and assumption, fuelled unfortunately by conjecture infused by scheming ways, the future of the village changes forever.

The book is a perfect peace read - for it tells the horrors of the sword of war as it hangs in a fragile social setting, and also tells the devotion to peace and how it both does, and can subsist in quarters that are least expected. It also drives home a very powerful truth - that peace is indeed a choice, one that people not only have the right to make, but should also be encouraged to make.

The novel is a grim reminder that the Partition of India and Pakistan is not just about cutting out a line on a map. It was a segregation of humanity, a turning against of one and another on the ground of unfortunate administrative planning to infuse divisiveness. What Singh's book does though, is to unite. And in the process, a beautiful message effectively does come forth. In every person, is inherent goodness, even in one who is famed for his negative side. That defining moment in the book leaves you in tears.

For days after, the nameless, faceless people in the story and beyond in the reality that constitutes our history, haunt you.