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Kabuliwaala – A trudge from 1892 to 2021

Shehnaz Gujral Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Kabuliwaala – A trudge from 1892 to 2021

Many childhood memories are nothing but the books we read. Rabindra Nath Tagore’s ‘ Kabuliwala’ is a story every student in the 1980s has studied in the school curriculum. This story from the year 1892 was one of the best stories, which we, as students could connect to. After three and a half decades, I still remember the character of Rahmat Sheikh with distinctive features, solemn eyes and rugged face. Dressed in the traditional attire, this peddler from Afghanistan went door to door selling the dry fruits.

Rahmat Sheikh represents the Afghanis, who in search of livelihood become the wanderers in the strange lands. It was the homesickness which brought him close to Mini, a girl of five. Mini’s father, a writer admired Rehmat for the constant challenges in his life and understood his longing to meet his own daughter, which brought Rahmat to their house every day to meet Mini.

Feared by the myths of children being kidnapped by immigrants and his attire, Mini’s mother like most of the people was skeptical about the growing bond between her daughter and the Afghan. As the fate has never been kind to these people, Rehmat lands up in a jail for ten years. Soon after his release, he rushes to meet Mini, who was all set to be the bride. Time had flown by and it reminded him of his daughter in Afghanistan.

After 129 years of this story, Afghanis are still laboring to be trusted by the world. Ironically. Rahmat Sheikh was feared by the people for his physique, but these Afghanis are fearful of being in their own land. It was the trust deficit which made Kabuliwala’s visit to Mini’s home disagreeable for her mother. As the story ends with the release of the Afghani after ten years, the reader is compelled to think of the integrity and trustworthiness of this community represented by Rahmat Sheikh.

The world is witnessing the troubles of the Kabuliwallas. Rabindra Nath Tagore, through his iconic story had introduced us to the man from a distant land, finding ways to make and send money to his family. Today, we can relate to these Afghanis who are on their beam ends. How can we help them? Will they seek their roots, or will they live to be peripatetic?

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Masroor Alam
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Thanks for reminding and refreshing my own school days. Indeed these people are suffering for a long time.

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