Read the following excerpt from the novel Train to Pakistan and do the given tasks.
In the afternoon, Iqbal stretched himself on the coarse string charpoy and tried to
get some sleep. He had spent the night sitting on his bedroll in a crowded third
class compartment. Every time he had dozed off, the train had come to halt at
some wayside station and the door was forced open and more peasants poured in
with their wives, bedding and tin trunks. Some child sleeping in its mother’s lap
would start howling till its wails were smothered by a breast thrust into its mouth.
The shouting and clamour would continue until long after the train had left the
station. The same thing was repeated again and again, till the compartment meant
for fifty had almost two hundred people in it, sitting on the floor, on seats, on
luggage racks, on trunks, on bedrolls and on each other or standing in the corners.
There were dozens outside perched precariously on footboards holding on to the
door handles. There were several people on the roof. The heat and smell were
oppressive. Tempers were frayed and every few minutes an argument would start
because someone had spread himself out too much or had trod on another’s foot
on his way to the lavatory. The argument would be joined on either side by friends
or relatives and then by all the others trying to patch it up. Iqbal had tried to read
in the dim light speckled with shadows of moths that fluttered round the globe. He
had hardly read a paragraph before his neighbour had observed:
“You are reading?”
“Yes, I am reading.”
“What are you reading?”
It had not worked. The man had simply taken the book out of Iqbal’s hand and turned
over its pages.
“You must be educated.”
Iqbal did not comment. The book had gone round the compartment for scrutiny. They
had all looked at him. He was educated, therefore, belonged to a different class. He
was a Babu.
“What honourable noun does your honour bear?”
“My name is Iqbal.”
“May your Iqbal (fame) ever increase.”
The man had obviously taken him to be a Muslim. Just as well. All the passengers
appeared to be Muslims on their way to Pakistan.
“Where does your wealth reside, Babu Sahib?”
“My poor home is in Jhelum district.” Iqbal had answered without irritation.
The answer confirmed the likelihood of his being Muslim: Jhelum was in Pakistan.
Thereafter, other passengers had joined in the cross-examination. Iqbal had to tell
them what he did, what his source of income was, how much he was worth, where
he had studied, why he had not married, all the illnesses he had ever suffered from.
They had discussed their own domestic problems and diseases and had sought
his advice. Did Iqbal know of any secret prescriptions or herbs that the English
used when they were “rundown”? Iqbal had given up the attempt to sleep or read.
They had kept up the conversation till the early hours of the morning. He would
have described the journey as insufferable except that the limits to which human
endurance could be stretched in India made the word meaningless. He had got off
at Mano Majra with a sigh of relief. He could breathe the fresh air. He was looking
forward to a long siesta.
But, sleep would not come to Iqbal. There was no ventilation in the room. It had a
musty earthy smell. A pile of clothes in the corner stank of stale clarified butter, and
there were flies buzzing all around. Iqbal spread a handkerchief on his face. He could
hardly breathe. With all that, just as he had managed to doze off, Meet Singh came in
‘Robbing a fellow villager is like stealing from one’s mother. Iqbal Singhji, this is
Kalyug — the dark age. Have you ever heard of dacoits looting their neighbour’s
homes? Now, all morality has left the world.’
Iqbal removed the handkerchief from his face.
‘What has happened?’
‘What has happened?’ repeated Meet Singh, feigning surprise. “Ask me what has not
happened! The police sent for Jugga — Jugga is a badmash number ten [from the
number of the police register in which names of bad characters are listed]. But Jugga
had run away, absconded. Also, some of the loot — a bag of bangles — was found in
his courtyard. So we know who did it. This is not the first murder he has committed
— he has it in his blood. His father and grandfather were also dacoits and were hanged
for murder. But they never robbed their own village folk. As a matter of fact, when
they were at home, no dacoit dared come to Mano Majra. Juggut Singh has disgraced
Iqbal sat up rubbing his forehead. His countrymen’s code of morals had always
puzzled him, with his anglicized way of looking at things. The Punjabi’s code was
even more baffling. For them truth, honour, financial integrity were ‘all right’, but
these were placed lower down the scale of values than being true to one’s salt, to
one’s friends and fellow villagers. For friends you could lie in court or cheat, and
no one would blame you. On the contrary, you became a naradmi — a he-man who
had defied authority (magistrates and police) and religion (oath on the scripture)
but proved true to friendship. It was the projection of rural society where everyone
in the village was a relation and loyalty to the village was the supreme test. What
bothered Meet Singh, a priest, was not that Jugga had committed murder but that
his hands were soiled with the blood of a fellow villager. If Jugga had done the
same thing in the neighbouring village, Meet Singh would gladly have appeared
in his defense and sworn on the holy granth that Jugga had been praying in the
gurdwara at the time of the murder. Iqbal had wearied of talking to people like
Meet Singh. They did not understand. He had come to the conclusion that he did
Meet Singh was disappointed that he had failed to arouse Iqbal’s interest.
‘You have seen the world and read many books, but take it from me that a snake can
cast its slough but not its poison. This saying is worth a hundred thousand rupees.’
Iqbal did not register appreciation of the valuable saying. Meet Singh explained:
‘Jugga had been going straight for some time. He ploughed his land and looked after
his cattle. He never left the village, and reported himself to the lambardar every day.
But how long can a snake keep straight? There is crime in his blood.’
‘There is no crime in anyone’s blood any more than there is goodness in the blood of
others,’ answered Iqbal waking up. This was one of his pet theories. ‘Does anyone ever
bother to find out why people steal and rob and kill? No! They put them in jail or hang
them. It is easier. If the fear of the gallows or the cell had stopped people from killing
or stealing, there would be no murdering or stealing. It does not. They hang a man
every day in this province. Yet ten get murdered every twenty four hours. No, Bhaiji,
criminals are not born. They are made by hunger, want and injustice.’
Iqbal felt a little silly for coming out with these platitudes. He must check this habit of
turning a conversation into a sermon. He returned to the subject.
‘I suppose they will get Jugga easily if he is such a well-known character.’
‘Jugga cannot go very far. He can be recognized from a kos. He is an arm’s length taller
than anyone else. The Deputy Sahib has already sent orders to all police stations to
keep a lookout for Jugga.’
‘Who is the Deputy Sahib?’ asked Iqbal.
‘You do not know the Deputy?’ Meet Singh was surprised. ‘It’s Hukum Chand. He is
staying at the dark bungalow north of the bridge. Now Hukum Chand is a naradmi. He
started as a foot-constable and see where he is now! He always kept the sahibs pleased
and they gave him one promotion after another. The last one gave him his own place
and made him Deputy. Yes, Iqbal Singhji, Hukum Chand is a naradmi — and clever.
He is true to his friends and always gets things done for them. He has had dozens of
relatives given good jobs. He is one of a hundred. Nothing counterfeit about Hukum
‘Is he a friend of yours?’
‘Friend? No, no,’ protested Meet Singh. ‘I am a humble bhai of the gurdwara and he is
an emperor. He is the government and we are his subjects. If he comes to Mano Majra,
you will see him.’ There was a pause in the conversation. Iqbal slipped his feet into his
sandals and stood up.
‘I must take a walk. Which way do you suggest I should go?’
‘Go in any direction you like. It is all the same open country. Go to the river. You will
see the trains coming and going. If you cross the railroad track you will see the dark
bungalow. Don’t be too late. These are bad times and it is best to be indoors before
dark. Besides, I have told the lambardar and Uncle Imam Baksh — he is mullah of the
mosque — that you are here. They may be coming in to talk to you.’
‘No, I won’t be late.’
Iqbal stepped out of the gurdwara. There was no sign of activity now. The police had
apparently finished investigating. Half a dozen constables lay sprawled on charpais
under the peepul tree. The door of Ram Lal’s house was open. Some villagers sat on the
floor in the courtyard. A woman wailed in a singsong which ended up in convulsions
of crying in which other women joined. It was hot and still. The sun blazed on the mud
walls… -Khushwant Singh
All Units Notes