Tag Archives: khushwant singh

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh Title: Train to Pakistan
Author: Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0143065883
Genre: Literary Fiction, Partition Literature
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This was my third reading of Train to Pakistan, and every time I read it, there is an ache that seems to have gone but hasn’t. I grew up hearing some stories of the Partition from my grandparents, and at the end of each story, I would see vacant eyes, eyes that said a lot and yet did not want to go beyond what was said. The memory of it all would haunt them all their lives.

Train to Pakistan is perhaps the first book that comes to most minds when speaking of the partition of the country. If not the first, then at least second. The starkness, honesty, and empathy of the novel has spread over decades in terms of being relevant (sadly) and continues to do so.

The plot is about a fictional village named Mano Majra and its residents (Muslim and Sikh), and how they are caught up in the turmoil of Partition, how it affects their relationships and lives. It all starts when a train filled with the dead bodies of Sikhs and Hindus arrive in Mano Majra. Singh gives us this but doesn’t make it the centrepiece of the novel.

Train to Pakistan to me is all about human nature, its relation to religion, its connection with the concept of life and death, and how suddenly it is either each man for his own or coming together of people in times of crisis. What I loved the most about this novel (even in the third read) was that Singh never loses his grip on empathy. There is this sense of brotherhood, of community, and yet in the face of the larger event, people seem helpless. Or are they?

Train to Pakistan is about common people. It is about Government officials who will also use every trick in the book to get their way out. It is about religious extremism and the madness that comes along with it – the madness that will never stop following you.

The sad part is that it is relatable even today – in an India of seventy-three years of independence. It is relevant when there are pogroms against the Muslims in Delhi, it is relevant when Godhra is mentioned, it is relevant when the memory of Mumbai riots of 1992 is evoked, it is relevant when mob lynching is spoken of, and it is relevant when people are killed basis what they eat, wear, look, and who they pray to.

Train to Pakistan was read by me as a part of my Partition Reads Project, of one book on the partition to be read every month. I believe that no matter how much it hurts to read such literature, we can never forget what happened, and in that process we heal – we remember and not forget that we need to be better humans – every single time.

99: Unforgettable Fiction, Non – Fiction, Poetry & Humour by Khushwant Singh

99-unforgettable-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-humour by Khushwant Singh Title: 99 : Unforgettable Fiction, Non – Fiction, Poetry & Humour
Author: Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 9789383064755
Genre: Anthology
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Writers live on forever. There is this immortality which is attained when you write a book. The concept of death is then cheated on and rightly so. When Khushwant Singh passed away, there was this surge of emotions in the country and outside of the country as well. India had lost its beloved writer. I started reading Khushwant Singh when I was in school. It began with his jokes (in those days, we called them non-veg jokes). We were boys, driven by testosterone and Mr. Singh’s jokes just added onto what we were experiencing as teens. As I grew up, I realized that the man had written a lot more than just jokes. Those were just additions off-handedly thrown in for teenagers like me.

I experienced a portion of “Train to Pakistan” in the eighth grade and since then I have not stopped reading him. This according to me is one of India’s finest novels – written about the time of partition, when nothing was certain and yet all what the residents of Mano Majra wanted was peace and calm. I then moved on to his short stories, starting with “The Mark of Vishnu” and then my most favourite one, “The Portrait of a Lady” and the stories never stopped being read. His columns about the world and the way it was, clubbed with humour just had to be the thing to make me stop feeling gloomy.

And then there were other books and stories I read written by the man. And then one fine day, just like that he passed away. What he did leave behind is this body of work that speaks volumes about the man he was and the writer that we all loved. Aleph Book Company has published his body of work, parts of it, samples of it, across 99 pieces, each for the year he lived – 99 pieces of sheer joy for the reader to take in. This collection has everything in it that he ever wrote (well not whole of it but mostly covers all forms of writing) – from fiction to short stories to columns to jokes to poems and stories from his life.

“99” was published on Khushwant Singh’s birth anniversary. The book provokes thought and a whole lot of entertainment. “99” takes you to a place where you want to read more of Khushwant Singh. This book is perhaps the best tribute paid to the man who entertained us with his writing, made us relate to his characters, made us see Delhi in a different light, and also made us contemplate about death as much as he reveled in living. Read “99” if you love what Mr. Singh has written over the years. Read “99” if you want to know what he wrote and want to start off with his writing. Read “99” to see and understand what great and simple writing is all about. It is but true: Writers do live on through their writing and there is no better example than this.

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387 Short Stories: Day 14: Story 14: The Portrait of a Lady by Khushwant Singh

The Mark of Vishnu by Khushwant Singh

Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Khushwant Singh
Taken from the Collection: The Mark of Vishnu and Other Stories

“The Portrait of a Lady” by Khushwant Singh was my read for the day. Now I know what everyone thinks of Mr. Singh and his writing, however I would beg to differ. To a very large extent, he just says it how it is and several writers do that too. I also don’t think that there is an age to stop talking about sex. It is purely hypocritical of some people if they think this way and behave in another. Anyway, coming back to today’s story.

“The Portrait of a Lady” is a story of a grandmother – it is the portrait of a grandmother, and the relationship she shares with her grandson – from the time he is with her in the village to the time she is with him in the city and thereon. The story to a large extent also felt autobiographical and perhaps could be as well. I loved the story. The sentiment and the way Singh describes the bond in merely five pages, gave me more insight into his writing and how powerful it can be. A short story that will touch your heart.

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The Sunset Club by Khushwant Singh

What do old men think about? Do they have any thoughts at all? Or do they just seem perverse to others? I have always wondered why old women look motherly and nice and old men don’t. Is it because they are men at the end of the day? But it isn’t about the way they look. It is about what they think and what they say to each other. We all wonder and think about our old age and may be that is the reason I was so attracted to “The Sunset Club” by Khushwant Singh.

Let me be very honest at the onset: I had not read a single Khushwant Singh till “The Sunset Club” and partly because I had read excerpts and did not like the way he wrote. Till I read the synopsis of his latest book which revolves around a year in the lives of three eighty-year old men from different backgrounds and faiths, who gather for a chat and a walk every evening, as they watch the sun set over the Jami Masjid in Lodhi Gardens, a mosque whose dome resembles the bosom of a young woman, by sitting on the Boora Binch (the old men’s bench).

They discuss everything in that one year (the chapters speak of every month, the changing seasons and the changing views of the three men) – from sex to politics, to constipation and the infirmities of old age to love and the poets and poems of years gone by. Singh at the same time presents a different point of view in the book – it is very strong from a political perspective and it is clear that he has an opinion on almost everything and rightly so. May be that is why the book on the front page has a line underneath that states, “Analects of the year 2009”.

The book starts in January 2009 on Republic Day and ends exactly a year after – 26th of January 2010. I loved the way Mr. Singh presented his view on non-violence and it appears as the book begins:

You may well ask why India, which prides itself as the land of Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence, celebrates the national day with such a display of lethal arms and fighting prowess. The truth is, we Indians are full of contradictions: we preach peace to the world and prepare for war.”

The three men at the heart of the book are Boota Singh (My personally opinion is that he is based on the author or a clever stand-in) – the self-confessed agnostic who still believes in God. Pandit Preetam Sharma – a Hindu in every single way and an Oxford graduate at that, being a former education minister, ironically is the most ignorant of the three and finally we are introduced to Nawab Barkatullah Dehlavi, who is a Pathan and is in good shape even in this age. He is a well-to-do man with a rich inheritance and has nothing to worry about.

I loved reading the book except for the illness bits – I was scared and was wondering what would happen to me when I reached that age. It is not a big book; however it is big when it comes to ideas and opinions. It is a light read and unpretentious. Mr. Singh touches on like I said almost everything that happened in 2009 – right from Babri Masjid verdict to the 377 act being not recognized through the eyes and ears of his three protagonists.

The Sunset Club; Singh, Khushwant; Penguin Viking; Penguin India; Rs. 399