Train to Pakistan

by

Khushwant Singh

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Bangles Symbol Icon

In the Sikh faith, a bangle symbolizes the Kara, or the belief in eternity—that God, or the Guru, has no beginning or end. The Kara is one of the five “K’s,” or articles of faith, in the Sikh religion. In the novel, however, bangles come to be associated with a certain dissolution or undermining of religious faith. Malli and his fellow robbers take bangles from Lala Ram Lal’s home and throw them into Juggut Singh’s courtyard, where they break into pieces, to implicate Juggut in the dacoity. The broken bangles symbolize both the perceived loss of a connection with God, while also serving as a metaphor for India’s geographical rupture. Newly married women, such as Hukum Chand’s orderly, Sundari, also wear many bangles for good luck. However, when she and her husband, Mansa Ram, are pulled from a bus by a mob of Muslims, who then rape Sundari, the power of this symbolism is undermined. Through the narration of this anecdote, the author seems to suggest that such religious symbols mean nothing when the tenets of a faith are disregarded in favor of violence and political tyranny. The Sikhs in the novel are just as guilty of this behavior as the Muslims.

The author further implies that bangles are empty of true religious power and meaning when several characters, including Meet Singh and the subinspector, assume that Iqbal Singh is a Sikh because he wears the steel bangle that many Sikh men adorn to demonstrate their faith. The bangle, however, could merely be an adornment to help the religiously-ambiguous Iqbal pose as a Sikh. This, coupled with the fact that Iqbal is circumcised, a sign of being Muslim, makes it unclear what his true religious identity is. Personally, he identifies with none. This detail of ambiguous religious identity makes the violence between the religious groups seem all the more absurd. If Sikhism is merely defined by the wearing of bangles, which easily slip on and off, then the faith becomes a superficial thing, which anyone can wear for political convenience, or even a need to survive.

Bangles Quotes in Train to Pakistan

The Train to Pakistan quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bangles. 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.
4. Karma Quotes

Iqbal realized that it was the company of Jugga and the constable, who were known Sikhs, that really saved him from being stopped and questioned. He wished he could get out of this place where he had to prove his Sikhism to save his life … He cursed his luck for having a name like Iqbal, and then for being a… Where on earth except in India would a man’s life depend on whether or not his foreskin had been removed? It would be laughable if it were not tragic … If only he could get out to Delhi and to civilization! He would report on his arrest; the party paper would frontpage the news with his photograph: ANGLO-AMERICAN CAPitalIST CONSPIRACY TO CREATE CHAOS (lovely alliteration). COMRADE IQBAL IMPRISONED ON BORDER. It would all go to make him a hero.

Related Symbols: Bangles
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

He felt a little feverish, the sort of feverishness one feels when one is about to make a declaration of love. It was time for a declaration of something. Only he was not sure what it should be. Should he go out, face the mob and tell them in clear ringing tones that this was wrong—immoral? Walk right up to them with his eyes fixing the armed crowd in a frame—without flinching, without turning, like the heroes on the screen who became bigger and bigger as they walk right into the camera. Then with dignity fall under a volley of blows, or preferably a volley of rifleshots. A cold thrill went down Iqbal’s spine. There would be no one to see this supreme act of sacrifice. They would kill him just as they would kill the others … They would strip him and see. Circumcised, therefore Muslim.

Related Characters: Iqbal Singh, Meet Singh
Related Symbols: Bangles
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of a religious code, has been carefully removed. Take philosophy, about which there is so much hoo-ha. It is just muddleheadedness masquerading as mysticism. And Yoga, particularly Yoga, that excellent earner of dollars! … And all the mumbo-jumbo of reincarnation … Proof? We do not go in for such pedestrian pastimes as proof! That is Western. We are of the mysterious East. No proof, just faith. No reason; just faith.

Related Characters: Iqbal Singh
Related Symbols: Bangles
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bangles Symbol Timeline in Train to Pakistan

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bangles 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
...River. Two of them have spears. The leader asks the spearman if he has the bangles for Juggut Singh. Another suggests that Juggut could give the bangles to “that weaver’s daughter,”... (full context)
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
...It is the home of Juggut Singh. They remember to give their “gift” of the bangles, which they toss over the wall into the courtyard. They hear the glass break while... (full context)
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
Honor and Heroism  Theme Icon
...had run away, would loot a neighbor’s home. The stolen money and a bag of bangles were found in his courtyard. Meet Singh insists that this is not the first murder... (full context)
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...enters and starts crying. Four constables search the house. Jugga’s mother brings out the broken bangles as evidence that the dacoits attempted to frame Jugga. They believe that this means that... (full context)
2. Kalyug
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...was kept busy by Nooran on the night of the robbery and Malli threw the bangles into Jugga’s courtyard after committing the dacoity. (full context)
4. Karma
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...that Hukum Chand must be right and that he has seen Iqbal wearing the steel bangle that all Sikhs wear. He asks what all of this has to do with preventing... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
...then raped her. Her friends warned her before her wedding not to take off her bangles—it was bad luck. She saw them smashed in the road while she was taken by... (full context)