Significance of the Title Train to Pakistan
The novel was initially named as ‘Mano Majra‘, but it was re-baptised as Train To Pakistan. Both the titles have their significance. Train to Pakistan refers to the holocaust that took place in 1947. But Mano Majra is the hero of the novel in the way Egdon Health is the hero of The Return of the Native. Every place has its spirit which manifests itself in the routine life of the place, in the vegetation, life and the character of the people.
Mano Majra is a small village, with only seventy families of the Sikhs and the Muslims. Ram Lal’s is the only Hindu family. Ram Lal is a money- lender. The village has an atmosphere of harmony. Ram Lal is the only dissonance in the harmony. A money-lender is a black-sheep, trying to extort money from the poor and the needy. Ram Lal is, therefore, killed and his property looted by the dacoits who are not arrested till the end of the novel. Malli, the dacoit, is rather rewarded in the end for the good work he has done he is made custodian of the evacuee property in the end to give him free hand to loot the evacuee property also. But Mano Majra is purged of the evil element that money-lender Ram Lal was. The Sikh and the Muslim families are left to live in complete harmony. It is fully insulated against the hot winds of revenge and genocide which had engulfed the whole country.
The country had been fighting for freedom for about a century. Freedom Movement had taken a heavy toll of human lives. The British tyrants killed large crowds of innocent persons mercilessly-thousands languished in jails and thousands were sent to Andamans (Kala Paani), but the Mano Majrans don’t have wind of it. The Mano Majrans live contented and happily in the village. The Lambardar and Bhai Meet Singh, the representatives or rather the specimens of the Mano Majrans, ask Iqbal why the British have left India, and wish the British had continued to rule since they were better persons and better rulers. The novelist perhaps wants to pass strictures against Indian officers through remarks of the innocent, indifferent and dispassionate persons. The Lambardar says unabashedly,
“We liked English officers. They were better than the Indian.”
Meet Singh says in support that his brother’s Colonel’s Memsahib sends nice things and had sent money on the occasion of the marriage of her niece. But the Lambardar and Meet Singh do not know that some of the English were good as men, but the British had been exploiting the Indians. In fact, Meet Singh and the Lambardar fail to see the issue in its entirety.
- Plot Construction in Train To Pakistan
- Art of Characterization in Train To Pakistan
- Criticism of Indian Society in Train to Pakistan
If ignorance is bliss, Mano Majrans are the blessed ones. The village is like an island, totally cut off from the mainland. The novelist focuses his lenses on the village. The people are living contented since they have no line of communication with the mainland. The Lambardar asks Iqbal, as if he was roused from a deep slumber,
“Freedom must be a good thing. But what will we get out of it? Educated people, like you, will get the jobs the English had, will we get more lands or more buffaloes.”
The idea of freedom is slandered but the innocent parsons all unconsciously draw attention to Gandhi’s concept of freedom-freedom from poverty, untouchability, illiteracy, etc. etc. What will freedom mean to the Mano Majrans if they continue to live in want and hunger, starvation and exploitation. Gandhi had been fighting a war against these evils along with war for freedom; there were only a few who could appreciate his ideas, but the Mano Majrans in spite of being uneducated and isolated have struck a cord with Gandhi. Mano Majra’s atmosphere of peace and harmony and age old poverty have gifted the people with a common sense that let them see the truths of life.
Mano Majra has an atmosphere of peace and amity. Therefore, the Mano Majrans are free from evils of hatred, communal prejudices, revenge, etc. In trains loaded with dead bodies come to Mano Majra to let people see what is happening in the world outside their small village. The Hindus and the Sikhs are being killed, their women are raped. The young persons of Mano Majra lose their poise. They use expletives against Muslims and want to wreak vengeance upon the Muslims of their village. But the ignorant and uneducated Bhai Meet Singh snubs the youth into silence saying,
“What have they done to you? Have they ousted you from your lands or occupied your homes? Have they seduced your women folk? Tell me what have they done.”
The language of Bhai Meet Singh is not palatable, but he speaks the truth that innocent persons even though they belong to the opposite side should not be punished. He brings sanity to the wayward youths. The Lambardar goes a step ahead to arouse the feelings of loyalty to the village- no villager will think of harming a co-villager.
The Lambardar expresses the fear the next influx of the refugees may do ‘something which will bring a bad name on the village’. “The reference to ‘something’ changed the mood of the meeting. How could outsiders do ‘something’ to the fellow villagers.” The atmosphere of vengeance is turned into that of friendship in a jiffy. The Lambardar then presents the situation wisely saying that the village may get next influx of refugees, who have been tormented by the Muslims in Pakistan. Those refugees can try to wreak vengeance on the Muslims of the village. The idea of an outsider assaulting and killing fellow villagers is intolerable. A young Mano Majran promises the Imam,
“If anyone raises his eye-brow at you we will rape his mother.”
Mano Majra has an atmosphere of communal harmony, while the country is torn vertically by communal hatred. The illiterate Mano Majrans place example of communal harmony before the learned great ones of the country.
The idyllic atmosphere of Mano Majra further sweetened by love for the village fellows will not let the minds of the inhabitants vitiated by the spirit of revenge. The Mano Majrans are fed on the beauty of swirling waters of the Sutlej, wild wastes of pampas grass and dhak, the calling of partridges to their mates, and twittering of geese, and other waterfowls, which come from different countries. They cannot think of raping women, or grabbing the properties of people in disaster. The Sikh youths come to Mano Majra to provoke the Mano Majrans to avenge the wrongs done by the Muslims on the Sikhs in Pakistan. The Lambardar shows equanimity and poise in refusing to lay hands on the Muslim women and properties. The Sikh youths ask the Mano Majrans,
“For each Hindu or Sikh they kill, kill two Musalmans. For each woman they abduct or rape, abduct two. For each home they loot, loot two. For each train-load of dead they send over, send two across.”
The Mano Majrans are far from these stinging ideas. Bhai Meet Singh takes up the cudgel and asks,
“What have the Muslims done to us for us to kill them in revenge for what Muslims in Pakistan are doing. Only people who have committed crimes should be punished.”
It is a simple sense of justice they have inhaled from the idyllic atmosphere of the village. They are ignorant persons, but they don’t require any philosopher to tell that one should not punish the innocent. Like a scholar, though he is not, he refers to the exhortation of Guru Gobind Singh who made it a part of the baptismal oath that no Sikh will touch the person of a Muslim woman, though he suffered at the hands of the Muslims; his children were killed mercilessly by the Muslims. The Lambardar is so much free of the greed that he refuses to touch the properties of the Muslims-
“Property as a bad thing; it poisons people’s minds. No we will not touch anything….We will not touch our brothers’ properties.”
The Mano Majrans hold their ground firmly even when the Sikh officer said venomously, “We should never touch another’s property; one should never look at another’s woman. One should let others take one’s goods and sleep with one’s sisters.” The people living in the midst of nature automatically become sanitly. They do not need anybody to teach them principles of morality.
The quietness and natural ambience of Mano Majra have so informed the minds of the people that they would not succumb to the force of declamation of the fire-brand youths and the police officer. The spirit that the village has imparted to the people keeps them straight in moral values. Therefore, it would not have been amiss if the novel had been named ‘Mano Majra’.
But when all said and done, it should be born in mind that the little ‘Mano Majra’ would not have conveyed the idea of the serious situation of genocide at all. The title would have given the impression that novel is nothing but a description of simple and idyllic life of the people living in that village. Train to Pakistan conveys the idea of horrifying incidents-Trains containing dead bodies were coming from Pakistan. The Indians human as they were, could not bear the tyranny and sent a train similarly loaded with dead bodies to Pakistan with the inscription on its engine ‘Gift to Pakistan’. The title Train to Pakistan reflects India’s strong reaction against Pakistan’s unprecedented barbarity. This title gives the idea the novel is about, whereas the other title ‘Mano Majra’ does not give idea of the time of action, and the great turmoil that this sub-continent was passing through. Therefore, the present title of this novel is certainly a better choice.
But even this title does not say anything about Mano Majra which is not only the place of action, but also imparts the spirit of good will and communal harmony without which the novel would have become meaningless. The novelist has entitled one full chapter ‘Mano Majra’ to show the spirit of Mano Majrans. If the title is to reflect all the aspects, it should be something as Mano Majra in the midst of fire. However, the present title has been accepted by the Press and the Public.