Train to Pakistan

Train to Pakistan Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Explain the novel’s title.

    Train to Pakistan is the story of Mano Majra, a once peaceful village that is torn apart in the 1947 Partition of India. Throughout the partition and the novel, “ghost trains,” or trains full of massacred Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims criss-cross the new border dividing India and Pakistan. No one is sure who sent the first train, but soon trains of corpses are sent back and forth, as each side retaliates against the other side’s acts of violence. At the end of Khushwant Singh’s novel, a mob arrives in Mano Majra, and recruits Sikh Mano Majrans to help massacre a train of Muslim refugees on their way to Pakistan. On this train are Muslim Mano Majrans, which adds a layer of betrayal to the plan. The moment when Jugga saves the train, enabling it to continue safely over the border into Pakistan, is the novel’s climax. Thus, this train is the specific "train to Pakistan" the novel’s title refers to.

  2. 2

    Compare and contrast Jugga and Iqbal.

    Khushwant Singh sets Jugga and Iqbal up neatly as foils to one another. From the outside, the men are complete opposites. Jugga is tall, strapping, and larger than the average Indian man, to the point where he is distinctive in Mano Majra and the surrounding region. Meanwhile, Iqbal is a small, slight man, and effeminate in appearance. He’s also distinctive, because his manner of dressing and his mannerisms make it clear he’s from the city. Iqbal’s city upbringing hints at his high level of education and his radical ideology regarding government. Alternatively, Jugga is illiterate, and is complacent in the face of government and police corruption.

    Their different stances towards government are exhibited when they’re both falsely arrested for the murder of Lala Ram Lal. Iqbal is righteously defiant, whereas Jugga quickly reconciles himself to the fact that the police will do whatever they want with him. The final, most significant difference between the two men is their actions when they find out about the planned train massacre. For all of Iqbal’s lofty ideas about humanity, justice, and morality, it is Jugga, the illiterate town badmash, who finds the courage to sacrifice himself and save the Muslims. With these two men, Khushwant Singh gives an interesting lesson about the true meaning of bravery, morality, and sacrifice.

  3. 3

    Analyze the role of women in the novel.

    With the exception of Nooran, Haseena, and Jugga’s mother, women are nameless and faceless helpmeets to the men in their lives throughout Train to Pakistan. Even Nooran and Haseena, as the love interests of Jugga and Hukum Chand, respectively, struggle to assert their autonomy in their relationships. Nooran seemingly tries to reject Jugga’s advances, but it’s later revealed she’s pregnant with his child and wants to stay with him, making it unclear how she really feels about Jugga. Haseena is at first afraid of Hukum Chand, but the more time they spend together, the more comfortable and forthright she becomes. In the end, it’s their love for the women in their lives that lead Hukum Chand and Jugga to try to save the doomed train of Muslims headed for Pakistan. In this way, women serve as an impetus and catalyst for one of the biggest dramatic moments in the novel.

  4. 4

    Despite their corrupt actions, the subinspector and Hukum Chand ultimately try to save the Mano Majra Muslims. Do their ends justify their means? Are their actions enough?

    Because of their underhand dealings with Jugga and Iqbal, the novel’s central characters, the subinspector and Hukum Chand are quasi-villains for most of the novel. Ironically, most of the men’s actions have the purpose of maintaining peace in Mano Majra, and minimizing the amount of Sikh and Muslims deaths in the region. Without extra support from the government in Delhi, the subinspector and Chand must resort to corrupt machinations and elaborate plans to prevent the spread of violence in the Mano Majra area. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of innocent men like Jugga and Iqbal.

    Still, because of the subinspector’s and Chand’s efforts, the Muslims escape to Pakistan alive, which makes them somewhat justified. However, their plans and actions would be futile, if not for Jugga’s inherent sense of justice, loyalty, and bravery. Had Jugga not sacrificed himself, the police’s plans would have been for naught, and they would be culpable in the train massacre. Though Chand was correct in depending on Jugga to save the Muslims, his own role in the rescue mission falls short.

  5. 5

    What role do religious figures like Meet Singh and Imam Baksh play in the novel?

    As Mano Majra’s Sikh priest and Muslim imam, Meet Singh and Imam Baksh serve not only as religious authorities in Train to Pakistan, but also as sources of information and moral compasses. Whenever villagers want to find out what’s happening in and around town, they head to the Sikh temple to hear the news and gossip. Later on, this is where everyone also gravitates when the violence and chaos of the outside world begins to press in. Similarly, it is Imam Baksh who spreads the news of their imminent evacuation to the Muslim families of Mano Majra. Finally, when the Mano Majra Sikhs begin to “buy in” to the propaganda and negative stories about Muslims, it is Meet Singh who disagrees and pushes back. He, along with the lambardar, is also the only person to speak up and reject the militant mob’s plan to massacre the Muslims on the train. He cannot sit idly by and watch as the morality of his neighbors and town is destroyed.