Train to Pakistan

by

Khushwant Singh

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Banta Singh Character Analysis

The headman, or lambardar, who collects revenue from the inhabitants of Mano Majra. Banta Singh fills a role that his family has had for several generations. He is described as a modest man and a “hard-working peasant like the rest of his fellow villagers.” However, his dealings with government give him an official status and a title. While Iqbal Singh is staying with Meet Singh in the gurdwara, or temple, Banta Singh pays them a visit along with a “Muslim,” who is probably Imam Baksh. Banta insists that Iqbal drink the milk that he has brought. During a conversation about Indian politics, Banta questions the wisdom of the British leaving India and talks about how much more he prefers British soldiers to Indian ones. At the end of the novel, he alerts the police in Chundunnugger to the train plot.

Banta Singh Quotes in Train to Pakistan

The Train to Pakistan quotes below are all either spoken by Banta Singh or refer to Banta Singh. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of Train to Pakistan published in 1956.
1. Dacoity Quotes

Independence meant little or nothing to these people. They did not even realize that it was a step forward and that all they needed to do was to take the next step and turn the make-believe political freedom into a real economic one.

Related Characters: Iqbal Singh, Imam Baksh, Banta Singh
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

“They are a race of four-twenties,” he said vehemently. [Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code defines the offense of cheating.] “Do not believe what they say.” Once again he felt his venom had missed its mark. But the Big Lord’s daughter sitting cross-legged with her eyes shut for the benefit of press photographers, and the Big Lord himself—the handsome, Hindustani-speaking cousin of the King, who loved India like the missionaries—was always too much for Iqbal …. “They would not have spread their domain all over the world if they had been honest. That, however, is irrelevant,” added Iqbal. It was time to change the subject. “What is important is: what is going to happen now?”

Related Characters: Iqbal Singh (speaker), Meet Singh, Imam Baksh, Banta Singh
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

What could he—one little man—do in this enormous impersonal land of four hundred million? Could he stop the killing? Obviously not. Everyone—Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Congressite, Leaguer, Akali, or Communist—was deep in it. It was fatuous to suggest that the bourgeois revolution could be turned into a proletarian one. The stage had not arrived. The proletariat was indifferent to political freedom for Hindustan or Pakistan, except when it could be given political significance like grabbing land by killing an owner who was of a different religious denomination. All that could be done was to divert the kill-and-grab instinct from communal channels and turn it against the propertied class. That was the proletarian revolution the easy way. His party bosses would not see it.

Related Characters: Iqbal Singh, Imam Baksh, Banta Singh
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
2. Kalyug Quotes

The northern horizon, which had turned a bluish gray, showed orange again. The orange turned into copper and then into a luminous russet. Red tongues of flame leaped into the black sky. A soft breeze began to blow toward the village. It brought the smell of burning kerosene, then of wood. And then—a faint acrid smell of searing flesh. The village was stilled in a deathly silence. No one asked anyone else what the odor was. They all knew. They had known it all the time. The answer was implicit in the fact that the train had come from Pakistan.

Related Characters: Imam Baksh, Banta Singh
Related Symbols: Railway Bridge
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:
4. Karma Quotes

It was a dead cow with its belly bloated like a massive barrel and its legs stiffly stretched upward … The faint sound of a moan was wafted across the waters … Horses rolled from side to side as if they were scratching their backs. There were also men and women with their clothes clinging to their bodies; little children sleeping on their bellies with their arms clutching the water and their tiny buttocks dipping in and out. The sky was soon full of kits and vultures … They pecked till the corpses themselves rolled over and shooed them off with hands which rose stiffly into the air and splashed back into the water.

Related Characters: Banta Singh
Related Symbols: Railway Bridge
Page Number: 141-143
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, if the village is not dead, then it should be. It should be drowned in a palmful of water. It consists of eunuchs,” said the visitor fiercely with a flourish of his hand … The leader had an aggressive bossy manner. He was a boy in his teens with a little beard which was glued to his chin with brilliantine. He was small in size, slight of build and altogether somewhat effeminate ….] He looked as if his mother had dressed him up as an American cowboy … It was obvious to the villagers that he was an educated city-dweller. Such men always assumed a superior air when talking to peasants. They had no regard for age or status.

Related Characters: Boy Leader (speaker), Meet Singh, Banta Singh
Page Number: 147-148
Explanation and Analysis:

“For each Hindu or Sikh they kill, kill two Mussulmans. For each woman they abduct or rape, abduct two. For each home they loot, loot two. For each trainload of dead they send over, send two across. For each road convoy that is attacked, attack two. That will stop the killing on the other side. It will teach them that we also play this game of killing and looting” … “I was going to say,” said Meet Singh haltingly, “I was going to say,” he repeated, “what have the Muslims here 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.” The lad glared angrily at Meet Singh. “What had the Sikhs and Hindus in Pakistan done that they were butchered? Weren’t they innocent?”

Related Characters: Meet Singh (speaker), Boy Leader (speaker), Banta Singh
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
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Banta Singh Character Timeline in Train to Pakistan

The timeline below shows where the character Banta Singh appears in Train to Pakistan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Dacoity
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
...to his room and lies down on his charpoy. Meet Singh appears and says that Banta Singh , the lambardar, will visit that evening and is bringing some milk. He then offers... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
Later at the gurdwara, Iqbal meets Banta Singh and a Muslim man. The men talk about the Partition. Banta Singh asks Iqbal why... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...he says that the colonial past is irrelevant; what matters is what will happen now. Banta Singh argues that the present is filled with the promise of destruction, and that the only... (full context)
2. Kalyug
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...the empty train could mean. Suddenly, a policeman appears in the doorway of the temple. Banta Singh talks to him. He says that there are trucks waiting outside. They need the villagers... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...attention again, the Sikh snaps at him. When the trucks are loaded, the officer instructs Banta Singh to go to the camp in the morning to get the payment. The villagers ask... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
The subinspector tells Hukum Chand that he sent word to the lambardar, Banta Singh , that no one is allowed near the railway bridge or the station. He tells... (full context)
3. Mano Majra
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
The head constable speaks privately to the lambardar, Banta Singh , who then addresses the crowd, asking if anyone has seen or heard anything about... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
...it is enough that they are Muslims. Meet Singh shrugs in futility and the lambardar, Banta Singh , decides that it is up to him to settle the argument. He says that... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
A Muslim officer tells the lambardar, Banta Singh , that the Mano Majra Muslims are going to Pakistan. The lambardar agrees to look... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...toward Chundunnugger, until it is out of sight. The Sikh officer then summons the lambardar. Banta Singh , arrives, accompanied by all the Mano Majra villagers. The Sikh officer says that anyone... (full context)
4. Karma
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Banta Singh , the lambardar, goes to look at the river before sunset. He has never known... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
...while “their tiny buttocks [dip] in and out.” The sky becomes overwhelmed by scavenger birds. Banta Singh still insists that a village flooded overnight. One of his companions asks who would yoke... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
Banta Singh asks what they can do about the massacres. He says that if the government goes... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...to be implicated in the crime, due to their presence during the conspiracy. The lambardar Banta Singh takes two villagers with him and goes to the police station in Chundunnugger. (full context)