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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Book Review- Train to Pakistan- Khushwant Singh

Title- Train to Pakistan
Author- Khushwant Singh
ISBN- 9780143065883
Published by- Penguin India
Price- Rs 250
Pages- 190

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I finished this book in one day, that too in few hours. The drama is intense, the truth is bitter and the setting is very Indian. The expressions, the idioms, they are all translated and it would have been much more effective, had it been written in Hindi or Punjabi. But the book doesn't lose its charm in its Indianness simply because some stories are above narration, they are the stories that deserve to be told; Train to Pakistan is one such story.

It is grim and there are details of deaths and bodies that one doesn't want to hear, rather one is tired of hearing. Yet, the truth needs to be told because unfortunately, it is still relevant today. We make it about Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs when it is really about humanity. A bullet, a knife, a hacksaw- they don't ask your religion, sex or caste.

The horror of communal riots is just unfathomable to an urban mind. A mind that reasons, gesticulates, justifies just cannot comprehend the emotions behind these deaths. Iqbal is the urban mind in this story and he could have been Iqbal Singh or Mohammad Iqbal. Khushwant Singh deliberately chooses to keep his identity vague and the point is made emphatically.

The character of Jagga badmash is more layered and heroic than Iqbal. There are also the love stories between Nooran and Jagga, Hasina and Hukum Chand and the mind wonders how love makes heroism possible so naturally.

The best part about this book is that it is not a sad book. It is not a book which shows only one side of humanity which is bloodthirsty and exploitative. It disappoints the rightwingers and leftists alike. It is a book about political neutrality and emotional radicalism. It is the book for those who understand humans. Khushwant Singh excels in dissecting the tragedy and refrains from over-romanticizing it. A good, short, deep read.

4 out of 5 stars 

Ratings explained-
1 star- Unbearable
2 stars- Meh!
3 stars- Good
4 stars- Excellent
5 stars- Blew me away!

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