Train to Pakistan


Khushwant Singh

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Antimony Symbol Icon

In the novel antimony is a symbol of the pleasures and dangers posed by love and sex. Antimony is a hazardous mineral falsely believed to be the main ingredient in kohl—the material that Juggut Singh’s Muslim girlfriend Nooran and the Muslim prostitute Haseena use to line their eyes. In the midst of their dacoity of Lala Ram Lal, Malli and the other robbers discuss Nooran—a girl who looks innocent during the day but who “puts black antimony in her eyes” at night, reflecting the connection between antinomy with lust and sin. Nooran, they say, “is dark, but her eyes are darker.” Haseena also lines her eyes “with antimony and lampblack.” Both Nooran and Haseena exist in the novel as sources of pleasure for the men who love them, albeit reluctantly. Both women, too, like the “antimony in [their] eyes,” are associated with danger due to their being Muslim. For example, upon becoming pregnant with Juggut’s child, Nooran fears that a pregnancy out of wedlock with prompt her father to kill her. She also fears that, if her future Pakistani neighbors discover that her baby has a Sikh father, the child will be killed. The middle-aged, married magistrate Hukum Chand, meanwhile, falls in love with Haseena, whose youth, religious affiliation, and social status are in stark opposition to his own. The antimony that lines both women’s eyes ultimately marks them as, often unwilling, objects of lust, pleasure, and danger.

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Antimony Symbol Timeline in Train to Pakistan

The timeline below shows where the symbol Antimony appears in Train to Pakistan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Dacoity
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
...bangles to “that weaver’s daughter,” Nooran. They talk about her “little mango breasts” and the antimony on her “large gazelle eyes.” (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
...all, Imam Baksh is nearly blind. He would not notice her silk shirt or the antimony on her eyes. Still, she swears to Jugga that she will never see him again.... (full context)
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon Haseena, greets him excitedly; she stares at him. Her large eyes are “lined with antimony and lampblack.” The servant pours Chand a whisky and soda and the group performs. Haseena... (full context)