This is a book review of a novel that is very dear to my heart and an unabashed bias because the writer was Khushwant Singh, a fellow Sikh, and the novel in question is The Train to Pakistan which is set in the backdrop of the largest mass migration in the history of humans when during the partition of India in 1947, close to fourteen million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were displaced. It is set in the village of Manno Majra which is situated at the border of India and Pakistan and is seemingly unaffected by the communal mayhem taking place all across the two countries and how the Sikh history-sheeter of the village and the protagonist, Juggut Singh, overcomes all odds to save the day not just for the village but for his love, Nooran who is a Muslim girl of a weaver in the village.
This novel saw the light of the day in 1956 and is a work of fiction but the books that leave an indelible mark on the sub-conscience are the ones that have coincidences inter-woven with the backdrop of real happenings which gives it a realism and legitimacy that such works deserve because they are easy to identify and touch a chord. These issues are relevant to this day because they will never be forgotten not just because of the sheer scale but also because they keep occurring every decade or so with political patronage and lack of accountability in the sub-continent. There was a movie also by the same name directed by Pamela Rooks and was released in the year 1998 in India and the U.K.
Khushwant Singh is one of the most celebrated writers of his time who was not just a writer but a journalist, parliamentarian and a lawyer. He was awarded the second highest civilian honour of India, The Padma Vibhushan but he was more recognised for his humane gesture of returning the Padma Bhushan in 1984 as a protest against Operation Bluestar when the Indian army laid siege to the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in Sikhism, in Amritsar. A bit late in the day to be singing peans of the book now but not that I am complaining.
Ps- Morality is a matter of money. Poor people cannot afford to have morals. So they have religion.