Critical Analysis of Rabindranath Tagore’s Story 'Kabuliwala': Love and Waiting

Rabindranath Tagore’s story Kabuliwala, set in the early twentieth century Kolkata, is about a little girl Mini and a Kabuliwala exploring the bonds of friendship, affection and parting  transcending the borders of race, religion and language. Read More Short Stories The prime characters are two: Kabuliwala and Mini. Kabuliwala’s name was  Rahamat  a middle-aged Pathan trader, a dry fruit seller from Afghanistan, who comes to Kolkata, leaving his family and in particular his favorite daughter, and Mini was a chatty girl and liked to talk all day long.

Mini’s father’s conversation with Mini was often feisty. One day Kabuliwala is passing through the street hawking his merchandise, and then Mini loudly calls the Kabuliwala. Kabuliwala heard Mini’s call and turned around with smile and approached their house. But Mini dashes inside because she fears that if someone looks through the bag of this Afghan man. Read More Short Stories Then her father calls her and she came with fear, the Kabuliwala took out some raisins and apricots inside the bag and gives it to Mini, but she refuses to take them.   

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Then some day later Kabuliwala   befriends the small Bengali girl, Mini who reminds him of his own daughter Rabiya back in Afghanistan no doubt.  Read More Short Stories One day Mini’s father notices that Mini has lot of nuts. Upon discovering this Mini’s father asks the Kabuliwala why he gives this Mini and he gives Kabuliwala a half rupee coin. 

The story of Rahamat now turns a sad lot. Some day later, one morning Mini’s father sees Kabuliwala in handcuffs escorted by two police man. Then he accosts the policeman, and demands to know what is going on. Putting together details from Kabuliwala as well as the police man, Mini’s father understand that one of their neighbor was indebted the Kabuliwala for a Rampuri shawl and when the man denies his debt, an argument break out between them.  In the heat of the argument, Kabuliwala stabs the man. Read More Short Stories Kabuliwala is now send to jail for several years. Then they almost forget about Kabuliwala.

Several years passed. Mini has grown up and her wedding match has been fixed. Then suddenly Kabuliwala walks into the Mini’s father room. At first, Mini’s father does not recognize him then finally he recognizes him through his smile. Read More Short Stories Kabuliwala wants to meet Mini but Mini’s father does not agree. The Kabuliwala says he has also a girl like Mini then he lays a paper open othe table and Mini’s father could saw the impression of small hand on it. It traces of a tiny hand created with burnt charcoal daubed on the palm. Mini’s father fills with tears at the sight of that pieces of paper, and called Mini. Mini comes out from the inner quarter  with her ceremonial make up.  

The Kabuliwala sees Mini and becomes confused. Minnie does not recognize Rahmat. Read More Short Stories The Kabuliwala asks Mini if she is going to the in-law’s house. Heard the question from Kabuliwala her face becomes purple and she leaves. Soon after Mini leaves, Kabuliwala slouches on the floor with long, deep sigh. It becomes obvious to him that his own daughter has grown up as well and he would have to get to know her all over again. She would not be the same girl he has left behind. Minnie’s father kindly dips into the wedding budget and give the money to Rahamat to make the passage home to daughter's home. It would be the best blessing to Mini’s wedding.

Coming to the story, Mini, Rahamat and Mini’s father, these three main characters appear toughened and inured to emotional pain, yet they harbor deep emotional sensitivities. Rahmat wishes his heart were softened, thus he maintains empathy even for a total stranger’s sight, as he listens to his own daughter’s crying for days, following her movements as she wanders around her desert land, wishing he could meet to her. Read More Short Stories Mini herself wants to be emotionally impenetrable at the end. However Mini’s father is ready to cut off her luxurious weeding ceremony to appear sympathetic to Rahamat’s situation. But this action is a response to the lasting pain he feels from father’s point of view.   No matter how the characters try to distance themselves, they still feel the pain of their lives of universal unity.

Love is most important theme that runs through Tagore’s story Kabuliwala. The characters suffer from long hours of idle time; they pass the time guessing what future will be included on their delivery route the next day. Particularly Rahamat’s state of love even extends to his jailed life, and he has a series of filial bond to Mini to relieve the routine memories of his home life. Read More Short Stories Similar to love is the theme of waiting. Many of the characters are waiting for events that will most likely have surprising end. The young protagonists, both Mini and unseen  Rahamat’s daughter are often waiting for the Kabuliwala who abandoned them to come back, but the fathers rarely return. The deserted Kabuliwala is also waiting for the return of their daughter. Most wait for years, never to see their wishes again. For the characters in Tagore’s story Kabuliwala, life is disappointing and unfulfilled, with little hope for the future. But finally the little hope survives and Tagore’s Kabuliwala returns to his homeland.

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