Train to Pakistan

Train to Pakistan Metaphors and Similes

Geckos (Metaphor)

Just above his head two geckos were getting ready for a fight (Singh 41).

As Hukum Chand prepares to greet his evening entertainment (Haseena), he spies two geckos squaring up for a fight above his bed. The geckos circle each other before colliding and hitting the other with equal force. Watching the geckos makes Chand feel dirty, with a kind of dirt you cannot wipe or wash away. The geckos are a metaphor for the warring Sikhs and Muslims during the Partition of India. Neither group can overpower or defeat the other, so they are deadlocked in a back and forth volley of violence. One side kills a train of people, the other kills two. One group loots two towns, the other counters by looting four. And so it goes, back and forth with no end in sight, as with the fighting geckos. Furthermore, when Chand watches the geckos and does nothing, it makes him feel dirty. Later on in the novel, when he releases Jugga and Iqbal from prison to do his job and save the Muslims en route to Pakistan, his inaction again makes him feel dirty and guilty. This further solidifies the significance of the gecko metaphor.

Holi (Simile)

People empty their rifle magazines into densely packed trains, motor convoys, columns of marching refugees, as if they were squirting red water at the Holi festival; it is a bloody Holi (Singh 214).

The violence and bloodshed during the Partition is particularly grisly, to the point that Hukum Chand compares the scenes he’s witnessed to a bloody Holi. Holi is a religious Hindu festival in which people throw various colors and water at each other. It is the celebration of good's triumph over evil, so Chand using a simile to compare it to massacres is a terrible type of irony.

The Head Constable’s Visit (Simile)

The head constable’s visit had divided Mano Majra into two halves as neatly as a knife cuts through a pat of butter (Singh 168).

When the head constable visits Mano Majra to announce that the village’s Muslims will be evacuated to Pakistan, he plants the seeds of discord amongst the villagers. He also claims that Iqbal is a Muslim sent to disrupt life in Mano Majra, which further sows distrust in the community. As a result, the town is divided across religious lines, and Singh uses a simile to compare the division to a knife cutting through butter. This suggests that not only was this division neat and perfect, it was also easily done.

Burial Site (Simile)

The place looked like the scar of a healed-up wound (Singh 200).

When the second train of dead bodies arrives in Mano Majra, the villagers are expecting soldiers to come and demand firewood to burn the bodies, as with the first train. Instead, however, a bulldozer comes and digs a mass grave where the soldiers deposit the bodies. The bulldozer then “vomits” the soil it dug up onto the grave, covering the bodies. According to the narrator, the area of the mass grave looks like the scar of a healed-up wound. This is an effective simile because it compares the massacres and the attempts of the government to cover them up to a wound that’s almost completely covered up, but not quite. Despite the government’s best efforts, everyone still knows the wound exists, and that it’s festering just beneath the surface.

Jugga (Simile)

Juggut Singh’s head and shoulders showed above the turbans of the policemen. It was like a procession of horses with an elephant in their midst—taller, broader, slower, with his chains clanking like ceremonial trappings (Singh 86).

The moment Jugga is introduced, his physical appearance is described in detail. This is because he is bigger, taller, and broader than your average Indian man. At 6'4" he is the tallest man in the area and very distinct. This is why during the police procession to the jail Jugga doesn’t bother hiding his face, because everyone can recognize him from his stature alone. This is also why the simile comparing Jugga to an elephant amongst a procession of horses is so apt. He stands out everywhere he is. This is particularly important at the end of the novel, because it’s Jugga’s distinct size and appearance that identifies him as the person who cuts the ropes and saves the Mano Majra Muslims on the train to Pakistan.