Tag Archives: khushwant singh

BOOK REVIEW: THE SUNSET CLUB by Khushwant Singh

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    The Sunset Club is about three men (all fictitious characters) – Sardar Boota Singh, Nawab Barkatullah Baig, and Pandit Preetam Sharma. They have been friends for more than forty years. They’re all octogenarians and are a part of the sunset club. Every evening, during sunset hours these men sit in the Lodhi Gardens, and indulge in conversations about a number of controversial topics. These topics range from religion and politics to love, sex, and scandals.

    In the book, the author, delicately portrays, the life and problems of old age. He keeps track of this trio for a year, from January 26, 2009 to January 26, 2010. The different events that take place through a year include violence, general elections, corruption, and natural disasters. The ways in which the conversations of the trio keep changing as per time, are narrated quite well in the book.

    The book not only gives a picture of old India, but it also highlights her various social complexities and irony. The readers can experience an emotional roller-coaster ride with sadness and laughter simultaneously in the book. The Sunset Club was published by Penguin India in 2011. It is available in paperback. The price of the book in Amazon for a print copy is Rs 254 and kindle version is Rs 174.

    Khushwant Singh was one of India’s best-known writer and columnist. He was the founder-editor of Yojana, the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, the National Herald and Hindustan Times. He is the author of classics such as Train to Pakistan, I shall Not Hear the Nightingale (re-titled as The Lost Victory) and Delhi. His non-fiction includes the classic two-volume of ‘A History of the Sikhs,’ a number of translations and works on Sikh religion and culture, Delhi, nature, current affairs and Urdu poetry. In 2007, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan. Among the other awards that he has received are, the Punjab Ratan, the Sulabh International award for the most honest Indian of the year, and honorary doctorates from several universities. He passed away in 2014 at the age of ninety-nine.

    Khushwant Singh at the age of 95 wrote ‘The Sunset Club’ a novel about three friends in their 80s who spend the evenings in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens talking about love, lust, sex and scandal towards the end of their lives.

    The prime protagonists of Sunset Club are Pandit Preetam Sharma, Nawab Barkatullah Baig and Sardar Boota Singh. They are friends for over forty years. They all are now in their eighties. Every evening, at the hour of sunset, they come and sit together on a bench in Lodhi Gardens. There they exchange news, views, events that have gone past during the day, talking about everything from love, lust, sex and scandal to religion and politics.

    The book follows a year in the lives of the three men—from January 26 2009 to January 26 2010— Khushwant Singh brings his characters vibrantly to life, with his appetising portrayals, of their fantasies and foibles. His accurate unerring ear for dialogue and his genius for capturing the flavour and texture of everyday life in their households is just fantastic. He interweaves this with the compelling Indian human story as a parallel chronicle of this book. He talks of a year in the life of India, as the country goes through the cycle of seasons, the tumult of general elections, violence, natural disasters and corruption in high places. The narrative is garnished with ribald and is lyrical, poignant and profound, The book is a deeply moving exploration of friendship, sexuality, old age and infirmity. A joyous celebration of nature, an insightful portrait of India’s paradoxes and complexities. A masterpiece from one of India’s most-loved storytellers, The Sunset Club will have you in tears and laughter, and grip you from the first page to the last.

    Khushwant Singh has remained a rarity – an almost completely a home-grown success. The Sunset Club, his most recent novel, is an achievement of great measure because of his age—to produce a novel at 95 is testimony of his interest to the cause of writing.

    He was a great writer and in that provocateur, raconteur and a celebrated editor of India. He wrote without pomposity and that’s the hallmark of his success as a writer. Even in the autumn of his life the Sardar’s zest for life was undiminished and ‘The Sunset Club is a proof of that. The Sunset Club, tagged as analects of the year 2009, chronicles the friendship of three oldies- a Hindu, A Sikh and a Muslim—but in reality you get to see contemporary India, especially between January 26, 2009 and January 26, 2010.

    It does not take a great effort on the reader’s part to realize that Sardar Boota Singh is Khushwant Singh himself. At one point Nawab Barkatullah Baig tells his wife about Boota “He is good company. He spices his talk with anecdotes, quotations and improper language. One can never tell how much of what he says is true, but it doesn’t matter. I enjoy listening to him.” Readers too, enjoy reading it. The book has some Hindi abuses too that come out naturally while in conversation that produces cheap sexy thrills. The author has tried to keep the old men’s bench at Lodhi Gardens warm throughout the pages mainly by the sexual jaunts of bachelor Punjabi Brahmin Sharma, Baig and Boota. These jaunts add to the reader’s interest and tow well with the portrait of contemporary India that lures you to finish the book. Old age and infirmity lurks in the background but it is the recollections of the youth and hope for the next day that is remarkable about the Sunset. Despite the departure of Baig and Sharma, it is the hope that makes Boota gaze upon Bara Gumbaz and makes you feel that it still resembles the fully rounded bosom of a young woman.

    The book is an appropriate homage to Delhi, emanating from the Lodhi Gardens, and in the environs of Sujan Singh Park, where Khushwant Singh has lived much of his life. But the real achievement of the book is the mere fact that it simply exists. It’s the kind of book that few writers would attempt today. The sentences and narration is very sharp and upfront. Khushwant Singh’s greatest achievements as a writer came early on, with his monumental and unparalleled ‘History of the Sikhs’ and the Partition classic ‘Train to Pakistan.’ The hold he has on our minds, and the claim he has on our hearts, comes from the rest of his life.

    He is the most un-hypocritical of writers, confessing to his preference for tanpura-like buttocks and his enthusiasm for Scotch and women with tremendous zest. His home in Sujan Singh Park has always been open to a stream of writers and publishers who wanted either his blessings or his gossip. His weekly column – carried on without a break, except in rare cases of illness, for decades—has made Santa—Banta jokes famous. And he was proud of, the dirty-minded schoolboy humour that seeped into all his novels,

    If you’ve not read this book you’ve indeed missed the spice of life. I would give this book seven out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

KHUSHWANT SINGH

Copyright@shravancharitymission

    Khushwant Singh (born Khushal Singh, 2 February 1915 – 20 March 2014) was an Indian author, lawyer, diplomat, journalist and politician and. His experience in the 1947 Partition of India inspired him to write ‘Train to Pakistan’ in 1956 (made into a film in 1998), which became his most well-known novel. He is one of the prime English authors of India.

    Born in Punjab, Khushwant Singh was educated in New Delhi, and studied law at St, Stephen’s College, Delhi, and King’s College London. After working as a lawyer in Lahore Court for eight years, he joined the Indian Foreign Service upon Independence of India from British Empire in 1947. He was appointed journalist in the All India Radio in 1951, and then moved to the Department of Mass Communications in UNESCO at Paris in 1956. His last two careers encouraged him to pursue a literary career. As a writer, he was best known for his trenchant secularism, humour, sarcasm and an abiding love of poetry. His comparisons of social and behaviour characteristics of Westerners and Indians are laced with acid wit. He served as the editor of several literary and news magazines, as well as two newspapers, through the 1970s and 1980s. Between, 1980-1986 he served as Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India.

    Khushwant Singh was bestowed with Padma Bhushan in 1974. But he returned the award in 1984 as a protest against Operation Blue Star in which the Indian Army raided Darbar Sahab in Amritsar. In 2007 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India.

    Khushwant Singh was born in Hadali, Khushab District, Punjab (which now lies in Pakistan), into a Sikh family. He was the younger son of Sir Sobha Singh and Veeran Bai. Since births and deaths were not recorded in those times, his father simply made up 2 February 1915 for his school enrolment at Modern School, New Delhi. But his grandmother Lakshmi Bai asserted that he was born in August, so he later set the date for himself as 15 August. Sobha Singh was a prominent builder in Lutyens Delhi. His uncle Sardar Ujjal Singh (1895–1983) was previously Governor of Punjab and Tamil Nadu.

    His birth name, given by his grandmother, was Khushal Singh (meaning a “Prosperous Lion”). He was called by a pet name “Shalee”. At school his name earned him ridicule as other boys would mock at him with an expression, “Shalee Shoolie, Bagh dee Moolee” (meaning, “This shalee or shoolee is the radish of some garden.”) He chose Khushwant so that it rhymes with his elder brother’s name Bhagwant. (He declared that his new name was “self-manufactured and meaningless”. But he later discovered that there was a Hindu physician with the same name, and the number subsequently increased).

    He entered Delhi Modern School in 1920 and studied there till 1930. There he met his future wife, Kawal Malik, one year his junior. He continued higher education at Government College, Lahore, St. Stephen’s College Delhi, and King’s College London, before reading for the Bar at the Inner Temple.

    Khushwant Singh started his professional career as a practising lawyer in 1939. He worked at Lahore Court for eight years. In 1947 he entered the Indian Foreign Service for the newly independent India. He started as Information Officer of the Government of India in Toronto, Canada. He was a Press Attaché and Public Officer for the Indian High Commission for four years in London and Ottawa. In 1951 he joined the All India Radio as a journalist. Between 1954 and 1956 he worked in Department of Mass Communication of the UNESCO at Paris. From 1956 he turned to editorial services. He founded and edited Yojana, an Indian government journal in 1951 -1953; and also The Illustrated Weekly of India, a newsweekly; and two major Indian newspapers, The National Herald and the Hindustan Times. During his tenure, The Illustrated Weekly became India’s pre-eminent newsweekly, with its circulation raising from 65,000 to 400000. After working for nine years in the weekly, on 25 July 1978, a week before he was to retire, the management asked Singh to leave “with immediate effect”. A new editor was installed the same day. After Singh’s departure, the weekly suffered a huge drop in readership. In 2016 Khushwant Singh entered Limca Book of Records as a tribute.

    From 1980 to 1986, Singh was a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1974 for his service to the country. In 1984, he returned the award in protest against the siege of the Golden Temple by the Indian Army. In 2007, the Indian government awarded Khushwant Singh the Padma Vibhushan. As a public figure, Khushwant Singh was accused of favouring the ruling Congress Party, especially during the reign of Indira Gandhi. He was derisively called an ‘establishment liberal’. Singh’s faith in the Indian political system was shaken by the anti-Sikh riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination, in which major Congress politicians are alleged to be involved; but he remained resolutely positive on the promise of Indian democracy and worked via Citizen’s Justice Committee floated by H.S. Phoolka a senior advocate of Delhi High Court.

    Singh was a votary of greater diplomatic relations with Israel at a time when India did not want to displease Arab nations where thousands of Indians found employment. He visited Israel in the 1970s and was impressed by its progress.

    Khushwant Singh was married to Kawal Malik. Malik was his childhood friend who had moved to London earlier. They met again when he studied law at King’s College London, and soon got married. They had a son, named Rahul Singh, and a daughter, named Mala. His wife predeceased him in 2001. Actress Amrita Singh is the daughter of his brother Daljit Singh’s son – Shavinder Singh and Rukhsana Sultana. He stayed in “Sujan Singh Park”, near Khan Market New Delhi, Delhi’s first apartment complex, built by his father in 1945, and named after his grandfather. His grandniece Tisca Chopra is a noted TV and Film Actress.

    Khushwant Singh was a self-proclaimed agnostic, as the title of his 2011 book suggests: ‘Agnostic Khushwant: There is no God explicitly revealed.’ He was particularly against organised religion. He was evidently inclined towards atheism, as he once said, “One can be a saintly person without believing in God and also a detestable villain while believing in him. In my personalised religion, There Is No God!” He also once said, “I don’t believe in rebirth or in reincarnation, in the day of judgement or in heaven or hell. I accept the finality of death.” His last book, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous’ was published in October 2013, following which he retired from writing. The book was his continued critique of religion and especially its practice in India, including the critique of the clergy and the priests. It earned a lot of acclaim in India.

    Singh died of natural causes on 20 March 2014 at his Delhi residence, at the age of 99. His death was mourned by many including the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister of India. He is survived by his son and daughter. He was cremated at Lodhi Crematorium in Delhi at 4 in the afternoon of the same day. During his lifetime, Khushwant Singh was keen on burial because he believed that with a burial we give back to the earth what we have taken. He had requested the management of Bahai Faith if he could be buried in their cemetery. After initial agreement, they had proposed some conditions which were unacceptable to Singh, and hence the idea was later abandoned. He was born in Hadali, Khushab District,  in the Punjab Province of modern Pakistan, in 1915. According to his wishes, some of his ashes were brought and scattered in Hadali.

    In 1943 he had already written his own obituary, included in his collection of short stories Posthumous. Under the headline “Sardar Khushwant Singh Dead”, the text reads:

    We regret to announce the sudden death of Sardar Khushwant Singh at 6 pm last evening. He leaves behind a young widow, two infant children and a large number of friends and admirers. Amongst those who called at the late sardar’s residence were the PA to the chief justice, several ministers, and judges of the high court.

    He also prepared an epitaph for himself, which runs as follows:

Here lies one who spared neither man nor God;
Waste not your tears on him, he was a sod;
Writing nasty things he regarded as great fun;
Thank the Lord he is dead, this son of a gun.

He was cremated and his ashes are buried in Hadali school, where a plaque is placed bearing the inscription:

IN MEMORY OF
SARDAR KHUSHWANT SINGH
(1915–2014)

A SIKH, A SCHOLAR AND A SON OF HADALI (Punjab)
‘This is where my roots are. I have nourished them with tears of nostalgia.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

Literary Corner: Coffee House

Copyright@shravancharitymission

 

By Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

BOOK CORNER: SAHIB’S WHO LOVED INDIA … compiled & edited by Khushwant Singh

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

SAHIBS WHO LOVED INDIA

Compiled & edited by Khushwant Singh

    For far too long we have despised the English as unwanted rulers. Who exploited India and kept their distance from Indians.  And as soon as their tenures ended, they went back to their homes in England and were happy to forget the time they had spent in India.

This asymmetrical image of the English in India persists in the mind of most Indians. It is true that the majority of those who came here came because they could not find jobs in their own country. They hated everything about India: its climate, mosquitoes, flies, the filth and finally its dirt consummating into reek.

Plainly speaking they hated Indians. There were others who enjoyed the luxury of spacious bungalows with servants, shikar, riding, pig-sticking, drinking, dancing. But even they kept themselves aloof from Indians with their ‘whites only’ clubs.

However, there was a third variety that liked everything about India, stayed away from the racists club, went out of their way to befriend Indians and maintained contacts with them even after returning to England.

Some even lent tacit support to the freedom movement. They stayed on in India after the country gained independence, reluctantly returning to England when their bread winners retired.

Khushwant Singh was quite fortunate in knowing quite a few of this breed. Both, whom he befriended during his long years in England and those whom he got to know in India.

This book, therefore, is a collection of articles written by people who enjoyed India I would say and went back with pleasant memories.

In all there are about twenty-two articles in this book written by renowned Britishers such as Lord Mountbatten of Burma—as he calls him, Taya Zinkin—a prominent French born journalist and author. She was married to ICS officer Maurice Zinkin, J.A.K Martyn—the Head Master of Doon School and many other distinguished personalities.

The flavour that you get is quite contrasting. Like in present times you find so many Indians going abroad to work. Well … in those days of the British Raj, there were many Britishers who came to India to work. Some through the bureaucratic process and some on their own.

Initially they entered India with a lot of apprehension, of it being primitive but when they started working here they started enjoying the country. Especially, the open surroundings, the spacious bungalows and above all the warm people.

While zooming past the articles you’ll find some of them being even critical about the British establishment and the racist culture that they spread in India.

Some even disagreed with the thought process that India was not ready for ‘independence.’ That also brings me to the point that there is always a logical disconnect between the rulers and its citizenry.

It is a rare collection of essays that invites to revisit a vanished era of the sahibs and memsahibs. From Lord Mountbatten to Peggy Holroyde to Maurice and Taya Zinkin.

Britishers who lived and worked in India reminisce, about topics and points of interest as varied as the Indian Civil Service, the Roshanara Club, shikar and hazari, the amateur cine society of India, the Doon School, Rudyard Kipling and of course Mahatma Gandhi.

Selected from a series of articles commissioned by Khushwant Singh when he was editor of the illustrated weekly of India. These delightfully individualistic and refreshingly candid writings reveal a fascinating array of British attitudes, experiences, observations and fond memories. The occasional short-lived grouse and above all, a deep and abiding affection and respect for India.

It’s a less than a lengthy book of around a hundred and ninety pages full of fun. Especially, if you are interested in knowing about episodes that happened during the British Raj.

The articles are by ICS officers, journalists, technocrats, architects, teachers, BBC correspondents, government servants, army officers and bureaucrats.

I would give the book nine out of ten.

***

Synopsis by Kamlesh Tripathi

*

https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

*

Share it if you like it

*

Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****

 

 

 

WATCH BOOK TALK: ‘TRAIN TO PAKISTAN’ by Khushwant Singh

Copyright@shravancharitymission

 

 

 

BOOK TALK: TRAIN TO PAKISTAN by Khushwant Singh

Copyright@shravancharitymission

 

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about

THE TRAIN TO PAKISTAN

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

    The summer of 1947 was not like any other Indian summer. The weather that year had a different feel. What was, looming large on the horizon was, communal riots, and precipitated reports of the proposed division of the country into a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan. Within a few months the death toll had mounted to several thousands. ‘Muslims said the Hindus had planned and started the killing. According to the Hindus, the Muslims were to blame.’

    The riots had gradually spread from Calcutta to north and east and west. In Noakhali, East Bengal Muslims massacred Hindus. In Bihar Hindus massacred Muslims. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs who had lived for centuries in the Northwest Frontier abandoned their homes and fled towards the protection of the predominantly Sikh and Hindu communities in the east. They travelled on foot, in bullock carts, crammed into lorries as the riots had become a rout.

    By the summer of 1947 when the creation of a new state of Pakistan was formally announced, ten million people—Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs—were in flight. By the time the monsoon broke, almost a million of them were dead, and entire northern India was up in arms. The only oases of peace that remained were a scatter of little villages lost in the remote reaches of the frontier. Where, one such village happened to be Mano Majra.

    A tiny place, it had only three brick buildings. One belonged to the money lender Lala Ram Lal. The other two were the Sikh temple (Gurudwara), and the mosque (Masjid). Rest of the village was a cluster of flat-roofed mud huts and low-walled courtyards, which fronted on the narrow lanes. There were only seventy families in Mano Majra a fictional village. Lala Ram Lal was the only Hindu family. The others were Sikhs or Muslims, about equal in number and some quasi-Christians. The Sikhs owned all the land around the village and the Muslims were tenants and shared the tilling with the owners. There were a few families of sweepers also whose religion was uncertain. The Muslims claimed them as their own. Yet when American missionaries visited Mano Majra the sweepers wore khaki sola topees and joined their women folk in singing hymns in the accompaniment of harmonium.

    Even though, Mano Majra was said to be on the banks of Sutlej river. It was actually half a mile away from it. Sutlej is the largest river in Punjab. And about a mile north of Mano Majra. The Sutlej is spanned by a railroad bridge. It is a magnificent bridge—its eighteen enormous spans sweep like waves from one pier to another, and at each end of it there is a stone embankment. To, buttress the railway line.

    Mano Majra was always known for its railway station. Since the bridge had only one track. The station had several sidings where less important trains could wait, to make way for the more important ones. Not many trains stopped at Mano Majra. Express trains did not stop at all. Of the many slow passenger trains, only two, one from Delhi to Lahore in the mornings and the other from Lahore to Delhi in the evenings, were scheduled to stop for a few minutes. The only regular customers were the goods train. After dark, when the countryside was steeped in silence. The whistling and puffing of engines, the banging of buffers and the clanking of iron couplings could be heard all through the night. Apart from this, the blasts of the whistle were also heard often when the trains passed. And in all of this the author has done a wonderful job of describing the village activities. The Sikhs and the Muslims had a cordial relationship with each other until the summer of 1947.

    One heavy night in August five dacoits appeared in the village. And in sync with the rumblings of the sidings of the train, they decided to raid the house of the money lender Lala Ram Lal. They hammered the door with their weapons and after breaking it open they entered. They killed Lala Ram Lal and looted his treasure and fired two shots in the air to silence the village.  While leaving they passed through Juggut Singh’s (Juggia) house who was considered the village badmash and threw a bundle of bangles into his house to make him feel feminine. But since Juggut Singh (Juggia) was not at home they missed the action.

    Juggia was on probation where he was not supposed to leave the village and also report to the police station at frequent intervals. His father was a dacoit who was hanged for his crimes. Juggia had developed a physical relationship with Nooran, a Muslim girl who happened to be the daughter of Imam Baksh the Mullah of the Masjid. Once when, Juggia stepped out in the night, taking all the risk only to ‘make love’ to Nooran in the open fields where no one could see them. They heard some footsteps and went quiet. They saw some five people and could make out they were Malli the famous dacoit and his gang mates. Juggia was shocked. What was Malli doing in his village? This was no time for dacoities when the country was wounded, he thought. And, when, he was about to enter his house, he saw the door was open. Where, several villagers were in the courtyard talking to his mother. He turned around, quietly and made his way back to the river.

    In the bureaucratic circles, Mano Majra had some importance because of an officer’s rest house that was located just north of the railway bridge.  It had a flat roofed bungalow made of khaki bricks with a veranda in the front facing the river. It stood in the middle of a squarish plot enclosed by a low wall. Throughout the winter months, officers arrange tours that involved a short halt at the Mano Majra rest house. There they went for shoots and generally had a good time there.

    In the morning before the dacoity in Mano Majra, the rest house had been done up to receive an important guest. Before the arrival of this VIP the SI (sub-inspector) of police and two constables had also turned up on their bicycles. And soon the VIP too arrived in a large American car. His name was Hukum Chand, magistrate and deputy commissioner of the district. He immediately freshened up and got the SI to his room to start a conversation around some urgent issues over a glass of beer. The obsequious SI didn’t waste any time. He was immediately on the mission to please him. Corrupt Hukum Chand was expecting more than normal courtesies from the SI. That included wine, woman and song. The SI had it all in his quiver. During the course of beer he also started enquiring from the SI about the communal tension and about the convoys of dead Sikhs as they had been coming through at Amritsar. They had a frank discussion. Hukum Chand told the SI about Sikhs who retaliated by attacking a Muslim refugee train and sending it across the border with over a thousand corpses. They wrote on the engine ‘Gift to Pakistan!’

     The sentiments were far from normal on both the sides of the border. But it had not affected Mano Majra yet. The Muslims in Mano Majra were not well to do. There was also a discussion on Jugga. The SI reminded Hukum Chand of his father Alam Singh who was hanged two years back. SI explained, Jugga was in a relationship with a Muslim weaver’s daughter whose father was blind and was the mullah of the mosque and his name was Imam Baksh. In the evening Hukum Chand had his round of whisky along with a dance session by a prostitute who was in her teens and even slept with her. The dark side of bureaucracy and feudalism one could say.

    The morning after the dacoity the railway station was more crowded than usual. Residents of Mano Majra loved coming to the station just for the heck of it. Today the train from Delhi had some special visitors. Twelve armed policemen along with a sub-inspector alighted from compartment just behind the engine. And from the other end of the train near the guard’s van, a young man stepped down. Every bit an urbanite and also looked as if he was educated abroad, and somewhat effeminate, in body language. He was looking for a place to stay in Mano Majra. Soon he reached the Gurudwara where he met an old Sikh who happened to be the bhai of the temple. His name was Meet Singh. He enquired the name of the young man when the young man said, ‘Iqbal.’ ‘Iqbal Singh?’ queried the old man. To which Iqbal didn’t reply. Iqbal could have been Iqbal Singh, or Iqbal Chand or even Iqbal Mohammed. He declared himself as a social worker. He carried his own foodstuff to eat including fish complete with head, eyes and tail and even liquor. Bhai Meet Singh adviced Iqbal not to go out too far in the village as it was bad times. And that Lambarder and Imam Baksh, the mullah of the mosque were coming to meet him.

     The attention then shifts to the money lender’s house, who was murdered the previous night. The dacoits had taken a lot of cash and they say over five thousand rupees in silver and gold ornaments from his women. The murder suspect was now Jugga in whose house the packet of bangles was found that was left by the dacoits. He is soon arrested. Jugga pleads not guilty as he wouldn’t have looted and killed his own village brother but he was not heard.

    In fact the arrest of Jugga also had the okay of Hukum Chand the magistrate. In fact the magistrate had also given the concurrence to arrest Iqbal too, and implicate him in the case of murder. Iqbal had become a matter of suspicion because his undisclosed mission. They both are put in the lock up. But Iqbal had arrived a day after the murder and Jugga could not have killed his village-brother or struck a dacoity in his own village. This makes the authorities feel something is amiss. Which, they will not be able to prove it in the court of law. So they timidly accept the mistake and arrest Malli and his gang from Chundunugger police station.  

    Meanwhile things are hotting up in Mano Majra. One day a ‘ghost train’ arrives at Mano Majra railway station. The entire area along the station is cordoned off. Rumours spread it is a ‘funeral train’ carrying dead bodies of Sikhs and Hindus killed in the massacre. Army steps in with some Sikh officers and their Jeeps and trucks. Meanwhile, the local police are commissioned, to go around villages to collect wood and oil. This gives a clear indication, that it is required for mass cremation. The docile villagers, handover whatever is available with them. And after a while all they get to see is the billowing of dense smoke making it amply clear that its mass cremation that is going on. Post this; traumatic rumours spread across the village.

    But even before matters cool of, one day another ‘Ghost Train’ enters Mano Majra. It has no lights. It doesn’t whistle nor does it rumble. The army once cordons off the entire area. Soon an excavator arrives and starts digging a huge pit. The dead bodies are brought from the train and made to rest in the pit—mass burial. After which, the train disappears, as mysteriously, as it had come.

    News spreads that it was the bodies of Hindus and Sikhs brought in the train twice for cremation and burial. Upon reviewing the situation authorities feel another ‘Ghost Train’ can start riots in Mano Majra too. So they decide to shift the Muslim population to the ‘refugee camp’ from where they would be deported to Pakistan. Muslims of Mano Majra are not quite inclined to go to Pakistan as they feel they were born and brought up only in Mano Majra. But the cruel destiny decides that they have to leave. Nooran too, has to leave along with her father Imam Baksh. She comes to meet Jugga’s mother. She informs she is carrying Juggia’s child and therefore if she could adopt her and let her be in her house. But Juggia’s mother is not inclined to keep her, so she asks her to leave for the camp immediately.

    Meanwhile Juggut Singh, Iqbal, Malli and his gang are released from the jail. Iqbal disappears suddenly. But the talk whether he was a Muslim or a Sikh continues. Juggia upon reaching his home learns Nooran had come seeking for shelter at his home but was turned away by his mother. He gets very upset at this and threatens her to kill himself. And by now a young Sikh lad has emerged in Mano Majra. It appears he has come from Pakistan and is full of hatred for Muslims consequent to what he had seen in Pakistan—rape of Hindu and Sikh women and slaughter of their children and men. He is full of fire. He comes to the Gurudwara and provokes the Sikhs to join him for taking revenge. About fifty Sikhs join him as volunteers.

    Next day in the morning, the Sikh lad, along with all the volunteers make a plan. The train loaded with Muslim refugees is likely to start from Chundunugger and by night it will reach Mano Majra. The train has no lights as it being made to move in a surreptitious manner. All along the way they plan to post volunteers with torches who will signal as soon as the train passes them. They plan to tie a sturdy rope from one end to the other on the first steel span of the rail bridge which is at the height of the funnel of the engine which is about twenty feet. And once the train reaches there in the dark it will pull down all the people sitting on the roof say 4-500. The impact might even dislodge the train itself and it might fall into the river. Prima facie it appeared to be a perfect plan when they could have attacked and killed all the refugees.

    By night everything was in place. The train was moving without lights. Each time it passed a volunteer, the torch light flashed giving the signal that the train had moved ahead. It was a moonlit night. When, the Sikh lad saw a silhouette of a hefty person climbing the first steel span. He then started moving on the sturdy rope when he took out his kirpan (sword) and started cutting it. The Sikh lad upon seeing this, yelled at the hefty person to stop what he was doing. But the guy was unfazed. His movements up there had become even swifter by now. The train by now was also close to the steel span. The Sikh lad by now had understood what was happening. Someone was trying to sabotage the plan by cutting the rope as that would have saved all the refugees. So he first yelled and then took out his gun and shot the guy. He was hurt, and by now he was in the centre of the span. Where, his movements had become much more, faster. And finally he was successful in cutting the rope at the nick of the moment. But just then he fell on the track when the train ran over him and into Pakistan.

    The person who cut the rope was no else but Juggut Singh who wanted to save his Muslim girlfriend from being killed but in the process he killed himself.

Synopsis by Kamlesh Tripathi

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