The Kabuli Wala: A Contrasting Picture of the Two Fathers

“Love does not claim possession but gives freedom.” These heartwarming words of Rabindranath Tagore conforms elegantly with his another novel, “The Kabuli Wala”. The author, who is renowned throughout the world for his extensive contribution towards literature, fine arts and every small and big things, has gracefully depicted the story of an adorable little girl and her two fathers. They may not be blood related to the adolescent girl, named Mini, but both of them retained the same amount of affection and love for little Mini.
The story of “The Kabuli Wala” is set in the beginning years of the 20th century and is about a little girl, Mini and her pleasant bonding with the Kabuli Wala, which has been observed and narrated by Mini’s father in the story. The Kabuli Wala’s name was Rahamat Khan, a middle-aged Afghan trader and a dry fruit seller, who had come to Kolkata for business purposes and would regularly visit the dingy lanes of the city to peddle his merchandise. One morning, while vending his goods, the Kabuli Wala came across a bubbly little girl, who was calling out at him from her house. The trader had an instant liking for the little girl and felt the urge of making acquaintance with the charming girl. That was the beginning of the newfound bond of friendship and affection between the Pathan trader and Mini. The narrator, Mini’s father, too had a special bonding with his lovable daughter and he was quite pleased when he found out that his daughter had finally found a patient listener to her relentless gossip, other than himself.

Earlier, when the Kabuli Wala was not a part of Mini’s little world, then the narrator, Mini’s father, himself was the sole companion of this little child and she shared a special bond with her father. But after Rahamat Khan came into Mini’s life, he became her prime confidant and friend, with whom she would share every little detail of her acquired knowledge. Mini would continue with her chitchat and the Kabuli Wala was never tired of her incessant talks. In fact, he enjoyed listening to the little girl and would give her company during the conversations. The narrator was quite impressed with the level of understanding which the Afghani trader shared with the little child.
In this story, Rabindranath Tagore has beautifully pictured not only the unique bond of the girl and the Kabuli Wala, but also the significance of the two symbolic father figures in the story. Although they come from different paths of life, yet they share the similar affection for Mini. While the narrator belonged to a sophisticated Bengali family, Rahamat Khan hailed from the snow-clad land of Kabul and both had a different background. Both the narrator and the Kabuli Wala belonged to different religions, castes, societies and places, but their care and affinity for little Mini was unparalleled.
Earlier in the story, the narrator had not acknowledged the Kabuli Wala and his growing attachment with Mini and he couldn’t also trust him either. After Rahamat was convicted with murder and sent to jail, the narrator and the little girl obliterated about the trader, who would routinely visit them. After several years, when the Kabuli Wala returned from jail and visited the narrator’s house, then the circumstances had changed and the narrator no longer wanted the trader to be there, during the auspicious time. But on realizing Rahamat’s sincere emotion for Mini, whom he loved dearly, the narrator had a change of mind and beckoned Mini to meet the Kabuli Wala.
Both the narrator and the Kabuli Wala were fond of Mini and loved her with all their heart’s content. The trader was reminded of his little daughter whom he had left in his hometown, and whenever he saw little Mini, his concern and love for her, knew no bounds. Similarly, the narrator, was not Mini’s biological father, yet he loved his daughter deeply and protected her in every possible way.

Tagore remarkably indicates that a lower-class person too can possess true love and can also be an outstanding father figure. True feelings are always independent of money and social status and that is wonderfully shown in “The Kabuli Wala”. 

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