When would Amazon come to Pakistan?

5.0 out of 5 starsThe thin rope of hope

Reviewed in Germany on May 2, 2008

One of the most brutal episodes in the history of the earth, in which one million men, women and children were killed and ten million were driven from their homes and their belongings were robbed, was the division of British India in 1947, which resulted in the newly formed state of Pakistan emerged.
The author processed his personal experiences in the novel "Der Zug nach Pakistan", published in India in 1956 and now for the first time in German.

In it, Khushwant Singh recreates the human drama of this fateful summer, the drawing of the bloody dividing line in northwest India, in a small village and its poor inhabitants. Mano Majra is located directly on the Delhi to Lahore railway line. The trains determine the rhythm of life of its residents, mainly Sikh farmers and their Muslim tenants. Religious affiliation does not (yet) play a role for them. No matter if Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, they live carefree and untouched by the more and more spreading violence, their complacent, cooperative and meager lifestyle, which despite everything covers their daily needs.

But when the flood of refugees and the horrific bloodshed also arrive here, the common men and women are surprised, overwhelmed and torn inside. The hitherto peaceful village is being transformed into a battlefield of conflicting loyalties that no one can control. Here, too, the ordered human "cleansing" begins and the Sikhs cannot avoid separating themselves from "their Muslims", their friends. Ultimately, they are even willing to take up arms against their own relatives. Only one man, the village thief Jagga, stands up against senseless slaughter in an act of rescue at the cost of his life.

Khushwant Singh sketches his figures with a sure and steady hand.
On more than two hundred pages he outlines a whole ensemble of the most varied of individual fates, all of which, however, have a more or less unifying antagonist: there is the powerful justice of the peace and police chief of the administrative district Hukum Chand, a melancholy but practical-thinking realist and his favorite the sub-inspector of the police, the village roughneck Jaggat Singh "Jagga", who secretly meets the daughter of the Muslim village mullah, or the western educated visitor with the ambiguous name Iqbal (ambiguous because this does not reveal his religion).

The author's keen eye for details and his love for ordinary people run through his entire novel. Through his detailed and sensitive description of the characters, their way of life and their family relationships, the reader gains a deep insight into India's inglorious past, but also an understanding of social, cultural and political "idiosyncrasies" at that time.
Singh does a great job of showing the human dimension of division. Above all, his lovingly drawn protagonists contribute to this, with whom the reader can identify immediately and take them to his heart.

Conclusion:
Truth and fiction collide with breathtaking effects on the "Train to Pakistan". Through the episodes of his fictional characters, Khushwant Singh tells the trauma and tragedy of the division of British India; Stories that he, his family and friends have experienced or seen themselves.