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Representation of Women during Partition Through Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh and Ice candy man by Bapsi Sidhwa

In ‘Train to Pakistan’ Khushwant Singh represents the situations in Mano Majra (a small village of Punjab, Pakistan). Sikh religion is in majority in this village and Muslim, Hindu and Pseudo-Christian are other religions present in this village. They all live happily with brotherhood. But the partition makes violence and horror among the people.

The present study is focused on representation of women with a feministic approach. Patriarchism is the social structure in Mano Majra. The man and woman relations are unequal. The women are hardworking but worksas unpaid labour, dependant on men and therefore submissive and obedient. To get the external nominal things like bangles, ear-rings, bracelets, etc. women gives their body tho men in barter. Virginity is noble symbol that was used to propagate communal violence after partition. In this novel Khushwant Singh tries for union of Muslim and Sikhreligions through love of Nooran and sacrifice of Juggut Singh. He portrays Iqubal Singh to nullify male dominance and women discrimination to some extent.


In ‘Train to Pakistan’ Khushwant Singh describes about the small village named Mano Majra. Here, all the religions (Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs) live together, happily. There are only three buildings that are made up of bricks, one of usurer Lala Ram Lal, one of Sikh temple and the other is Mosque. Mano Majra situated at the bank of Sutlej River in Punjab and there was a railway station in the village. There is close association between people, nature, religion and train. The day in Mano Majra begins with voice crows, bats, Mullah, Sikh priest and arrival of mail train early in the morning and ends with passing of a goods train in night. Men works in the fields and women are at home. The people in this village pray for blessings to all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Pseudo-Christians.

The novel describes the realistic picture of the village Mano Majra of before and after partition of India and Pakistan. In this novel Khushwant Singh portrays the multiculturalism, political idealism, communal violence, pain, trauma of partition, humour, hypocrisy, drunkenness, unfair police, bureaucratic functioning, customs, love and sacrifice. The societies of different religions were looted, people were killed and women and girls got raped. Tank (2011) has reported that this is a politically dramatic novel presents the barbaric destructions that takes place and total insanity of the two nation theory. These countries ruined not only their people, social relations, morality, economies, lands, properties, cattle, administration systems, securities but also millions displaced from their homes. Mohammad has critically analysed this novel in the light of postcolonial theory and compared with ‘Ice Candy Man’ (1988) by Bapsi Sidhwa. He compared the Muslim and Sikh women characters in his novel ‘Train to Pakistan’. People likes that Juggut Singh sacrifices his life in an attempt to save the lives of migrating Muslims for the sake of love with Nooran. The novel reflects the impact of violence as physical torture and psychological. The common men and women are baffled and victimised in the partition.

Purohit said that Khushwant Singh pictured the patriarchal representation, victimization of the partition violence and misses women characters in his ‘Train to Pakistan’. Women in this novel are engaged in routine menial domestic work, regarded less important, silent, submissive and co-existed. Therefore, the present study is focused on representation of women in ‘Train to Pakistan’with a feministic approach.


The patriarchy expresses through family structure as an individual man holds power through the institution of fatherhood. The ‘symbolic power’ of fathers present as the essence of patriarchy within culture and unconscious. The foundations of patriarchy are as specific to the father-daughter relationship and complexities between power and gender. In this novel Khushwant Singh presents the patriarchal family head holds power and relations. The man, Lala Ram is the head of Hindu family carries all kind of powers and hold. The women informed to the dacoits:

‘I tell you Lalaji is not in. He has taken the keys with them. We have nothing in the house.’

Subconscious Presence of Matriarchy

Iravati Karve explored that the maternal relations are prominent in matriarchal society. In this society children lives with mother and there relations are mother, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Therefore, we feel comfortable with these relations and call them in emergency and these are the evidences of matriarchy presence in subconscious. In this novel, the women are calling to dacoits as brothers to save from attack.

‘Do not kill, brother. In the name of the Guru – don’t.’

Women are Passive and Dependant

In ‘Train to Pakistan’ women are described as more passive, obedient and dependant for all kind of activities. While the prestigious and responsible works i.e. Mullah, Sikh Priest, Train driver, farming, magistrate, sub inspector , etc. are assigned to men in Mano Majra. Whereas, women are busy in the passive and domestic works like cooking, cleaning, washing, rubbing, etc. The religious power is centred with men like Meet Singh is Sikh Priest and Imam Baksh is mullah.

Women in Mano Majra works as unpaid like pick lice from children’s heads,and also they are very cooperative in nature. They didn’t get any money for the works they do at homes and also didn’t get any favour for that. They discussing about their emotional issues like births, marriages and deaths. The qualities are inculcated right from the childhood. The girls are plays under the trees at safer side as compare to the boys. The boys are grazing cattle and plays adventurous games like ride on buffaloes into the pond. Men do not only active, productive and responsible work but also dacoit and violence.

It includes man-woman relationships, way of life, work distribution, sub-conscious mind setup, discriminating approach, male dominance, etc. Women are co-operative each other in this village. Women in this novel are helpless, weaker and need protection from someone. Women in Lala Ram Lal, the moneylender’s house calling to villagers for help when dacoits attacked.

The women in the courtyard heard the cry and started shrieking, ‘Dacoo! Dacoo!’

The dogs barked all round. But not a villager stirred from his house.

But they remain helpless only. There is fear, crying, wailing, beating, spitting blood, horror, cruelty, spear, gunshot, dogs barking and village was silenced.

The domestic works like cooking, cleaning and washing is done by the Nooran.

Women abuse for Revenge (Men)

In ‘Train to Pakistan’ Khushwant Singh pictured many incidents and situations that describes the revenge for men by the women abuse.The village is calm and silence with deep horror, fear, cry, wail, spit blood, cruelty and dogs barking after dacoits attacked on Lala Ram’s house. Dacoits pass on the streets and give open challenge to the villagers that they will rape women and girls of Mano Majra.

‘Come!’ they yelled. ‘Come out, if you have the courage! Come out, if you want your mothers and sisters raped! Come out, brave men!’

Juggut Singh used motherly relations to abuse Mali. The constable report to sub inspector about the women abuse as:

I have never heard such abuse. Mother, sister, and daughter – he did not leave one out.

Again Juggut attack on Mali and beats him rudely on bars. His each jerk was accompanied by women abuse.

‘This to rape your mother. This sister. This daughter. This is your mother again…….’

There are number of rumours about communal violence. However, the intention is on women abuse for revenge each other. Head constable reported that:

‘They had heard of ladies having their veils taken off, being stripped and marched down crowded streets to be raped in the marketplace.’

The people loosely talk about revengeful nature of Muslims and purity of Sikh women. They say that the Muslims never respect their women and the Sikh’s women jumped into the well to protect their purity. Khushwant Singh portrays this kind of rumours as:

‘And Muslims were never ones to respect women. Those who did not commit suicide were paraded naked in the streets, raped in public, and then murdered.’

Sikh Priest, Meet Singh speaks angrily in the meeting to prove the information above mentioned is false:

‘What have they done to you? Have they ousted you from your lands or occupied your houses? Have they seduced your womenfolk? Tell me, what have they done?’

The villagers in Mano Majra stand with Imam Baksh, Mullah. They explained their assurance with following words. The revenge not gets away from women abuse.

‘Yes, added another warmly, we first, then you. If anyone raises his eyebrows at you we will rape his mother.’

‘Mother, sister and daughter,’ added the others.

Thus, women are considered as things not only to use but also for insult, revenge, etc.. The women are listed as the property and goods as land, house, etc. by the Army Officers. However, stress on women is more highlighted in the descriptions. Women abuse is not only taken as the tool to suppress the society but also the revenge. The officers army also uses women abuse to irrupt Sikhs against Muslims it is given in the book as:

No one should never touch one’s property; one should never look at another’s woman. One should just let others take one’s goods and sleep with one’s sisters. The only way people like you will understand anything is by being sent over to Pakistan: have your sisters and mothers raped in front of you, have your clothes taken off, and be sent back with a kick and spit on your behinds.’

In another description, women are murdered along with men and children but in addition to that women’s breast have cut off sharply. The breasts have been cutoff to accumulate intensities of revenge here. He continually hammered to the people by using the information containing women insult for revenge as:

‘When the Mussalmans in Pakistan rapes your girls, apply for the permission from their government? Do they apply for permission from their government when they stop trains and kill everyone, old, young, women and children? You want the government to do something! That is great! Shabash! Brave!’

The army officers pressures the villagers of Mano Majra to abduct and rape Muslim women along with killing.

‘Kill two Mussalmans for each Hindu or Sikh they killed and abduct two or more for each woman they killed or raped.’

Meet Singh, a Sikh priest trying to propagate understanding that not to punish unarmed innocent people i.e. women. On the other hand happened different, women of Mano Majra stand up and put their child on the floor and joined to men-folk for the success of the venture.

Men Violence and Women Silence

In ‘Train to Pakistan’ Khushwant Singh shows a number of incidences shows men violence and at the same time women are silent. He shows that Juggut Singh acts violently with Nooran that shows him more powerful than her and she opposes him silently not for some extent but his control over her body ultimately submitting herself. She urges for her escape from Juggut Singh.

‘Let me go. Let me ….’

‘She could not struggle against Juggut Singh’s brute force.’

Juggut Singh is more conscious about his absence in the village troubled with the police rather than Nooran’s absence in her house at night. Even in problematic situation men are more conscious for presence of male than the female i.e. dacoits treat ill- manner to women but they destroy the men forever i.e. Lala Ram’s murder. Juggut Singh told lie to his mother. It shows that telling lies with women is not wrong or sin. It is acceptable. But he blames his mother for who will wake the neighbours. As she is dependent on son, Juggut for support and protection, he must alive. Juggut behaves badly with mother. But she blames herself and her fate, not to son or husband.

It is my lot to weep. My Kismet,’ she added, slapping her forehead, ‘it is all written there.

Even in sexual communication women are remain silent and handle with the sense of Indian womanhood (Nooran). They are always submissive to men whereas the men are aggressive for their satisfaction.

‘That is all you want. And you get it. You are just a peasant. Always wanting to sow your seed. Even if the world were going to hell you would want to do that. Even when guns are being fired in the village. Wouldn’t you?’

Men always consider women inferior and ignore their claims. Juggut denied Nooran’s information.

‘Nobody is firing any guns. Just your imagination,’ answered Juggut Singh wearily, without looking at her.’

It shows male dominance and the control over women’s body.

Further, army officer Sunder Singh shoots his wife with three children (187) to escape from complex of communal violence. Hence there are the few examples which shows that the women are always being considerd at the lower level than the men.

Nobility and Purity

Virginity, husband and marriage are fundamental beliefs of caste/religion based Indian society. They are developed and established for protection of caste based hierarchal structure. There are different traditions and customs like Pativrat, Sati, etc. in force. Hukum Chand has expressed the nobility of Hindu women as they are wilfully accepts the death rather than strange person’s touch (23-24).In most of the communal violence the purity of the women are considerd as the main reason. Khushwant Singh elaborates few dialogues, events and situations to present this issue. Women abduction declines their positions. Juggut Singh suggests Bhola that:

‘Bholeya, I heared a lot of women were being abducted and sold in cheap prices so here you could find a wife for yourself.’

‘Why, Sardara, if you can find a Mussulmanni without paying for her, am I impotent that I should have to buy an abducted woman?’ replied Bhola.

The abducted women are not accepted by men. They always expected virgins. However, Iqbal Singh reported that only few broad minded men accepted flowering widows. Abducted women are far away.

Bureaucratic Exploitation of Women

Women exploitations by bureaucrats are common phenomenon across the world have deep roots in socio-political situations. Supreme authorities in many of the cases exercise their power for this kind of behaviour. The officer makes their arrangements on the demand of authorities for their service securities. A sub inspector in ‘Train to Pakistan’ arranged a virgin girl, Haseena for the magistrate, Hukum Chand for enjoy of him. Haseena danced with love song innocently. She frightened to the lustful behaviour of the magistrate, Hukum Chand and keep aside. The old woman scolds her go to near Hukum Chand.

‘Go to the Government,’ pleaded the old woman. The girl turned round obediently and went to the magistrate. Hukum Chand put his arm around her waist.

‘You sing well.’

The girl gaped wide-eyed at her companions.

‘The Government is talking to you. Why don’t you answer him?’ scolded the old woman. ‘Government, the girl is young and very shy. She will learn,’ she exclaimed. Haseena was pushed forcefully to her exploitation for pleasing Hukum Chand. Haseena become a prostitute for Hukum Chand day by day.

Women Suffocation

Domestic facilities like private room for couple are very important to maintain their private life for better man-woman relationships. These facilities are not enough across the rural areas of the nation. Juggut Singh informs that:

‘Where is time or place for fun? In summer, everyone sleeps out in the open and all you can do is to slip away for a little while and get over with things before your relations miss you. In winter, men and women sleep separately. You have to pretend to answer the call of nature at the same time at night.’ (114).

They have to adjust to environment and available facilities. However, women are more sufferer than the men. The women are suffocated in this society mentally as well as physically.


Khushwant Singh portrays the situations of the village named Mano Majra before and after the partition in his novel ‘Train to Pakistan’. Mano Majra is a small village situated near to border in Punjab. Sikh is a religion of majority in the village. Muslim, Hindu and Pseudo-Christian are other religions. All they maintain their brotherhood and lives happily. Partition makes communal violence and horror.

Women in Mano Majra are projected in a sense of patriarchy. They are more passive, obedient and dependant for all kind of activities and busy in domestic unpaid works like cooking, cleaning, washing, rubbing, etc. They discussing about their emotional issues like births, marriages and deaths. These qualities are inculcated in girls from the early childhood through their play, customs, traditions, etc. The girls play safe game under the trees.

Man-woman relations are unequal, exploited and make women weak, dependent and submissive. Men use nominal things like bangles, ear-rings, bracelets, etc. to please women, whereas women are given their own body to men in barter. There is not only discrimination between men-women but also within the women based on religion, colour and occupation. Bureaucrats also exploit the women in their power.

Women weaknesses and victims are presented with glorious manner in the name of nobility. The focal theme of the novel is partition and communal violence. The influencing characters in the novel uses the noble symbol i.e. women purity for the propagation of communal violence all around. Women and girls are victimised for revenge in communal violence. The rumours contain information of spoiled mothers, sisters and daughters. In all these situations of violence promoted and maintained by men and women are remain silent. Women follow the men.

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