Book Review: Train to Pakistan

#MyThoughts: I detest the sight of blood. This book was a flood of blood; a sight that continues to haunt me.

“Morality is a matter of money. Poor people cannot afford to have morals. So they have religion.”

This quote was my portkey to ‘Train to Pakistan’ by Khushwant Singh. And here goes the review.

When I was a kid, dad read to me stories. He created vivid pictures through his narration; difficult for me to forget. I yet remember the good stories albeit vaguely. But it’s the disturbing tales that I remember so vividly that I could narrate them in one breath.

Train to Pakistan is such a story. It is more intense than one could fathom.

Mano Majra is a fictional village in post-partition India. Muslims and Sikhs dwell unaffected by the horrific outcome of partition. It’s a remote village and the villagers are not much aware of the happenings in the rest of India. Time and again, furious mobs wreak havoc, thirsty to rob, kill, torture and rape. The story picks up with the murder of the local money lender Ram Lal who was killed by a gang led by dacoit Malli but Juggut Singh, a Sikh man with bad reputation, is arrested as a suspect.

Iqbal, an educated social reformer, interested in politics has just arrived in the village and is also arrested for the same murder.

Hukum Chand is a powerful yet corrupt authority and had ordered arrests of Juggut and Iqbal. He is fighting a battle with himself to get rid of his guilt, an outcome of his unethical and evil treatment of the Muslims and Hindus.

The story revolves around these 3 characters for most part.

As the story unfolds, we feel tension creeping into the village. People are being misled. Rumors that would chill their nerves are making way into their hearts. People huddle in their houses after sunset, dreading the night. Innocent people are being put behind bars for crimes they never committed. The criminals are at loose, attacking families in villages, robbing them, murdering them.

The most horrific part yet are the trains that arrive at night, loaded with corpses of thousands of people sent from Pakistan with messages that read

‘Gift to India’

– from Pakistan

And each time, one of these trains arrives a depressing chill grips the village.

And finally one day, their worst fear comes true when it is ordered that all the Muslims in Mano Majra would be sent to Pakistan. They are forced to leave the village, their homes. None is aware of the murderous plot that is about to take place – all Muslims are to be murdered on the train and sent to Pakistan the same way trainloads of Hindus were received in India.

Iqbal, Hukum Chand, and Juggut Singh, are aware of the mass murder planned and yet it is Juggut Singh who takes a step to foul the plan. On the rainy night the attack is to happen, he gets in the way to save thousands of lives and gets killed in the process.

Khushwant Singh has done a splendid job in capturing the real essence of post-partition India. First published in 1956, the book bore the horrendous memories of the holocaust that were still fresh in everybody’s minds. The novel gives vivid accounts of the massacres of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs post partition. The gory pictures Singh paints with his words are hard to live with and yet you will never forget them. It is fiction that couldn’t have a better peek into reality. It is depressing, dark and gripping, and yet when you are done reading, you can only feel sorry for the families who were a part of the atrocities stemming from the partition; one of the bloodiest in the history of mankind.

This particular quote from the book has stayed with me and just how true!

“India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of a religious code, has been carefully removed.”

When I finished reading ‘Train to Pakistan’, I asked myself what was I thinking when I picked the book.  It surely is not what meets the eye at mere synopsis glance. It also isn’t what one would think of – a post-war scenario. No. It is a clear picture. One can see the country being torn apart, humanity shredded to pieces, leaving behind hearts that would bleed for years to come.

Recommended for all.

If you have already read ‘Train to Pakistan’, do share your thoughts below.

©Asha Seth

This piece was originally published on

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Books, Editor's Choice, Politics


  1. ashish tiwari

    Looks like a good book to read, I am going to put this into my reading list on Goodreads. Thanks Asha.

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