Train to Pakistan

by

Khushwant Singh

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Railway Bridge Symbol Analysis

Railway Bridge Symbol Icon

The railway bridge is a symbol of India’s connection with Pakistan, which persists despite the Partition and persistent religious animus, as well as of both the positive and negative aspects of modernity. The bridge, which physically connects India to the new state of Pakistan, was built during India’s colonial period and is the only evidence of Western-style infrastructure in the tiny village of Mano Majra, which barely has roads. Trains filled with both passengers and goods cross it daily, underscoring its status as Mano Majra’s only connection to the outside world. The bridge is not only the conduit through which Mano Majra receives goods, however, but it also one of the means by which the insular and relatively peaceful village gets caught up in the violence that has engulfed neighboring and distant cities. It is this bridge that carries a trainload of refugees to Pakistan, and which, toward the end of the novel, becomes the site of a Sikh conspiracy to kill passengers on that Pakistan-bound train. The bridge thus signals the religious tensions between the two nations while also underscoring their inherent bond.

Railway Bridge Quotes in Train to Pakistan

The Train to Pakistan quotes below all refer to the symbol of Railway Bridge. 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.
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:

He lay down again with his hands over his eyes. Within the dark chambers of his closed eyes, scenes of the day started coming back in panoramic succession. He tried to squash them by pressing his fingers into his eyes. The images only went blacker and redder and then came back. There was a man holding his intestines, with an expression in his eyes which said: “Look what I have got!” There were women and children huddled in a corner, their eyes dilated with horror, their mouths still open as if their shrieks had just then become voiceless … And all the nauseating smell of putrefying flesh, feces and urine.

Related Characters: Hukum Chand
Related Symbols: Railway Bridge
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
3. Mano Majra Quotes

Muslims sat and moped in their houses. Rumors of atrocities committed by Sikhs on Muslims in Patiala, Ambala and Kapurthala, which they had heard and dismissed, came back to their minds. They had heard of gentlewomen having their veils taken off, being stripped and marched down crowded streets to be raped in the marketplace … They had heard of mosques being desecrated by the slaughter of pigs on the premises, and of copies of the holy Koran being torn up by infidels. Quite suddenly every Sikh in Mano Majra became a stranger with an evil intent … For the first time, the name Pakistan came to mean something to them—a haven of refuge where there were no Sikhs.

Related Symbols: Railway Bridge
Page Number: 120-121
Explanation and Analysis:

The Sikhs were sullen and angry. “Never trust a Mussulman,” they said. The last Guru had warned them that Muslims had no loyalties. He was right. All through the Muslim period of Indian history, sons had imprisoned or killed their own fathers and brothers had blinded brothers to get the throne. And what had they done to the Sikhs? Executed two of their Gurus, assassinated another and butchered his infant children; hundreds of thousands had been put to the sword for no other offense than refusing to accept Islam; their temples had been desecrated by the slaughter of kine; the holy Granth had been torn to bits. And Muslims were never ones to respect women. Sikh refugees had told of women jumping into wells and burning themselves rather than fall into the hands of Muslims. Those who did not commit suicide were paraded naked in the streets, raped in public, and then murdered. Now a trainload of Sikhs massacred by Muslims had been cremated in Mano Majra.

Related Symbols: Railway Bridge
Page Number: 121
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:

The leader raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired. He hit his mark and one of the man’s legs came off the rope and dangled in the air. The other was still twined round the rope. He slashed away in frantic haste. The engine was only a few yards off … Somebody fired another shot. The man’s body slid off the rope, but he clung to it with his hands and chin. He pulled himself up, caught the rope under his left armpit, and again started hacking with his right hand. The rope had been cut in shreds. Only a thin tough strand remained. He went at it with the knife, and then with his teeth. The engine was almost on him. There was a volley of shots. The man shivered and collapsed. The rope snapped in the center as he fell. The train went over him, and went on to Pakistan.

Related Symbols: Railway Bridge
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Train to Pakistan LitChart as a printable PDF.
Train to Pakistan PDF

Railway Bridge Symbol Timeline in Train to Pakistan

The timeline below shows where the symbol Railway Bridge 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
...in the Punjab region, and it is known for its railway station and its enormous railway bridge about a mile north of town. (full context)
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
...insists that they “keep an eye on Mano Majra,” due to its proximity to the railway bridge . He then asks if there are any “bad characters.” The subinspector mentions Juggut and... (full context)
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
...a watercourse to the riverside and watches the express train from Lahore come across the railway bridge . (full context)
Honor and Heroism  Theme Icon
...he falls asleep, he hears the goods train leave the station and rumble across the railway bridge . Iqbal dreams of a peaceful life in jail. (full context)
2. Kalyug
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
Power and Corruption Theme Icon
...a unit of Sikh soldiers arrive and pile a six-foot-high square of sandbags near the railway bridge . They then mount a machine gun in front of each. Armed sentries start to... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Postcolonial Anxiety and National Identity Theme Icon
...he sent word to the lambardar, Banta Singh, that no one is allowed near the railway bridge or the station. He tells Chand that the Sikh officer counted more than a thousand... (full context)
4. Karma
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
...and the boy directs them to kill a trainload of Muslims who will cross the railway bridge to Pakistan. (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Gender and Masculinity Theme Icon
...leader spreads out a map and asks if everyone can see the position of the railway bridge and the river from where they are on the map. They agree that they can.... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Honor and Heroism  Theme Icon
It is a little after 11:00 p.m. There is little moonlight near the railway bridge . A jeep sits at a good distance from the embankment. No one is in... (full context)
The Partition of India and Religious Warfare Theme Icon
Honor and Heroism  Theme Icon
A big man (implied to be Juggut) climbs the steel span of the railway bridge . The others think that he is testing the strength of the knot as he... (full context)