Train to Pakistan

Train to Pakistan Summary and Analysis of Karma Part 1


As the remaining Mano Majrans sit and watch Malli’s men and the Sikh refugees loot the abandoned Muslim houses, word comes that the Sutlej has risen. At first no one is interested, but then they realize how high the river has risen. Soon, the river becomes the main topic of conversation, and the events of the morning are forgotten. The lambardar organizes a night watch to keep an eye on the river, just in case it overwhelms the mud dam and heads towards the village. As the night watch keeps their vigil, they begin to hear voices and cries for help from over the water. However, they don’t see anyone. Suddenly, a dead cow floats by, along with pieces of thatch and clothing. The men speculate that the river has swept away a nearby village. Then, they hear the rumbling sound of a train from the direction of Pakistan. The train comes to a stop at the railway station, but no one comes out.

The morning breaks, and the men can finally see the river clearly. Bodies of men, women, children, and livestock float down the Sutlej. The night watch at first believe these are the victims of a flash flood, but as the bodies come nearer the mutilation of them can be clearly seen. The night watch realize that a massacre has happened somewhere upstream, but doesn’t know who to inform. The police are corrupt and ineffective, and telling them would be futile.

The night watch returns to the village, but finds everyone distracted by the scene unfolding at the railway station. Soldiers and police have cordoned the area off, and are investigating the train that has come in the previous night. The Mano Majrans know what the train contains, and wait for the soldiers to come ask for firewood again. However, this time the soldiers use a bulldozer to dig a mass grave, and deposit the bodies in it.

That evening, the entire village comes for Meet Singh’s prayer at the gurdwara. Attendance is usually not so high, but the recent events have made the remaining villagers leery of being alone. Meet Singh leads the prayer as the Sikhs of Mano Majra and the Sikh refugees sit and listen. When he finishes, everyone lies down and tries to fall asleep, but the day’s events haunt them. They sleep fitfully, until a voice calls into the gurdwara, asking if they are all dead. The voice belongs to a Sikh man dressed in a khaki uniform with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Three other men accompany him. The men begin to antagonize the people of Mano Majra by saying their village looks dead, and calling them all eunuchs for not actively retaliating against Muslims.

The leader of the group is an impertinent and educated young man. He uses vulgar language not proper for a temple when speaking rudely to the villagers of Mano Majra. He tells them of the massacres Muslims have committed in Multan, Gujranwala, and other towns across the continent, and scolds the villagers for not taking action. When the lambardar mentions the government, the young man scoffs and calls the government cowardly. All of the leader’s words are hitting home. The Mano Majra Sikhs begin to feel ashamed, and the lambardar asks what they can do. This is what the leader was waiting for, and he tells them his plan. There is a train of Muslims crossing the bridge to Pakistan, and if they do their job correctly, the train will be full of dead people by the time it reaches Lahore.

Meet Singh, who throughout the leader’s speech has been the only voice of dissent, says that this train will have Mano Majra Muslims on it. The leader doesn’t care, because to him any Muslim is a bad Muslim. At this, a long silence ensues, until Malli and his gang come to the threshold of the gurdwara, and volunteer to take part in the massacre. The Sikh refugees join him, and so do several villagers, some who were crying the previous day during the departure of the Muslims. Altogether, 50 people agree to be part of the mob. The leader leads everyone in a prayer for the success of their mission, and then gathers the mob to plan their attack. Meet Singh and the lambardar try to eavesdrop, but are driven off.

The leader’s plan is simple: the next day after sunset they will stretch a rope across the first span of the bridge. As the train passes under it, everyone on top of the train will be swept off. Members of the mob will stand along the train tracks and shoot at the windows of the train as it passes. If the Pakistani soldiers on the train stop it, then those with spears and swords will kill the Muslims not killed by the guns.

After explaining his plan, the leader of the mob and his group stay in the gurdwara for the night, as do Malli and his gang. Many of the Mano Majra villagers leave for their own homes, fearful of being implicated in the planned massacre. The lambardar, along with two villagers, goes to the police station in Chundunnugger.


At the end of the last chapter, it seemed the Mano Majra Sikhs wouldn’t be able to think of anything besides the removal of their Muslim neighbors. And yet, when the Sutlej begins to rise and move precariously close to the village, the Sikhs use it as a welcome distraction. And again, when the night watch brings news of the massacre by the river, the arrival of another ghost train at the station is another distraction. No one wants to hear about dead people on the river, because the train “promises” a worse horror (Singh 199). In some ways, the Mano Majrans live for whatever new spectacle comes their way. Like witnesses of a car crash, they are disgusted and saddened by what they see, but cannot look away.

Instead of burning the train victims, the military decides to bury them in a mass grave this time. When describing the burial process, Khushwant Singh animates the bulldozer that digs the mass grave. It has a jaw which it uses to “eat up the earth, chew it, and cast it aside” (Singh 200). The bulldozer then passes for a break, as if it is a worker taking a lunch break. Once the soldiers drop all the bodies into the grave, the bulldozer “wakes up,” “eats up,” the earth, and “vomits” the earth back into the grave. The use of these action verbs when describing the bulldozer makes it seem like an animal or living being, and not an inanimate object.

Later that night, the day’s events leave the villagers traumatized, and they congregate at the gurdwara where they have visitors. The militant Sikhs who arrive in Mano Majra and their plot to massacre the Muslims relocating to Pakistan is living proof of the violence and chaos sweeping the rest of the country. India has ceased being a country ruled by the British and even its own independent government, and is in a time of mob rule. The Mano Majran community, eroded by stories of violence, the arrival of the ghost trains, and the supposed murder of a Hindu man by Muslims, is now susceptible to the vitriol the militant Sikhs spout. The sense of community that has guided the villagers throughout the novel is gone, and in its place is the same mindset guiding their angry fellow Sikhs and Hindus.

The zeal and charisma of the mob leader is also responsible for the paradigm shift in Mano Majra. Despite being a young man, he has a bossy, superior, and educated air. Like Iqbal, he is an educated babu from the city, and thus of higher class than the simple peasants of Mano Majra. His elevated social status gives him even more authority in the villagers’ eyes, and his actions solidify his standing. He intimidates the villagers into listening to his point of view by pricking their pride and questioning their courage. When the lambardar and Meet Singh try to speak up and counter his arguments, the leader lashes back with more propaganda and stories of Muslims in Pakistan committing atrocities against Sikhs and Hindus. He of course doesn’t mention the violence being meted out to Muslims in India.

The arrival of the mob in Mano Majra and the creation of the train massacre plot marks the rising action of Train to Pakistan. From the first chapter, when Singh says that Mano Majra was peaceful until the summer of 1947, we have anticipated this moment. Even as we have witnessed the comedic and quaint day-to-day happenings and politicking in Mano Majra, the officer’s rest house, and Chundunnugger, ever present in the back of our minds is Singh’s foreshadowing from chapter 1. Even as the first Sikh refugees from Pakistan arrive, and the town comes together, Sikh and Muslim alike, to house and feed them, we sense that this peace will not last. Now the aftereffects of the partition have reached Mano Majra, and it’s anyone’s guess what the fallout will be.