Remembering “Kabuliwala”

I don’t remember when I first came across the epic short story “Kabuliwala” by Rabindranath Tagore. It was part of our school syllabus is how I remember it but I could be wrong. The images it evoked of a “pathan” from Afghanistan who came to Kolkata to sell raisins, dates and almonds are imprinted in my mind. Tagore was such a master story teller that the story came alive… I could almost see Mini, I could almost see Rahmun, the tall kabuliwala and of course I still see the little girl and this man sitting and chatting away. Even when I read “The Kite Runner” or “1000 splendid suns” by Khaled Hosseini, I always pictured the Afghan men as the Kabuliwala.

Today for some reason I was remembering this short story and I found a pdf copy at this web address –

I read the story again and found so many other nuances that I didn’t catch when I was younger. I could empathise with Rahmun when he sees Mini after eight years in jail as a young bride, not as the little girl, and remembers his own little girl in Kabul. For some reason that image brought tears to my eyes because its such a special relationship that a father shares with his daughter and to miss her growing years is so emotionally tough ! I see the indulgent father that Mini has and all the unfounded doubts that her mother has about Rahmun kidnapping Mini. It was so typical of that time .. strangers are not to be trusted. Some things have remained the same – the term “in-laws” continues to have both the meanings, a jail and your in-laws through marriage. I also see the simple innocent life sans airplanes, mobile phones and the internet, but also the distances being so much more. Earlier in the day I had a mentoring call with my mentee in Kenya and we could do a video call. If Kabuliwala was living in these times, he needn’t have missed his daughter’s growing up years. He could have watched her on video if for some reason, he had to stay away. But then the story wouldn’t be as poignant as it is :).

We hope to visit Afghanistan some day. I have always felt that it was such a beautiful country thats been torn apart courtesy Russia and then the US and then the Taliban. But they will recoup and get back to being that beautiful country once again.

Anyway … today is Eid, a day of celebration, prayer and hope. So lets hope and pray for not just Afghanistan but for everyone to have peace and happiness. Eid Mubarak !

1 thought on “Remembering “Kabuliwala””

  1. I had read the story in my childhood and forgot about it. Today, after reading your blog, I read it again, and it touched something inside me. I have recently been blessed with a daughter, and miss her daily acts and new things she keep doing at home. Thanks a lot for sharing this.


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