टायर टायर, उज्ज्वल जलते हुए, रात के जंगलों में;
क्या अमर हाथ या आंख, तुम्हारी भयानक समरूपता को चौड़ा कर सकता है
(Tyger Tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? )
He closed the small leather book and let out a weary sigh. Tapping his chest, he confirmed that his papers were in his coat pocket. Papers that would ensure safety. Between his legs, the frantically packed suitcase. Thousands of people just like him had arrived at the station with their ragged bags of belongings.
The violence was a visible blanket of shame over the men and their families that sat silently on the train. British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazis claimed Partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found literally roasted on spits. Calcutta brutally transformed to something beyond a war zone – the barest of human nature laid open for all to see.
He caught himself staring across the train yard. There on an identical platform, he witnessed a Muslim father collecting and trying to console his family. He knew they were hearing the same things Hindu men had told their families. “We will go to where we can be safe – where we can escape violence for who we are.” Hindus took trains like his – – west, deeper into India – the rest headed east for Muslim-dominated East Banglor.
The father looked up for just a moment and the two weary men locked gazes. They both knew fear. panic. They knew the fresh stench of death. They could see it’s unrepentant reflection in each other’s eyes. The father bowed his head silently, as if to say, “I know the truth too.” The train lurched forward, the smell of the steam locomotive rushing in the windows. The great migration had begun.