Kabuliwala by Rabindranath Tagore
In Kabuliwala by Rabindranath Tagore we have the theme of connection, love, escape, trust, friendship, sadness and charity. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed man (Mini’s father) and after reading the story the reader realises that Tagore may be exploring the theme of connection. Mini though at first afraid of Rahman gets to enjoy the time that she spends with him. She is intrigued by the goods he sells and rather than accepting the money for the purchased items. Rahman hands Mini back the money her father has given her. It is also noticeable that Mini’s father is very much in love with Mini despite the fact that at times by being inquisitive she can be a handful. Most times Mini’s father plays along with Mini when she is asking questions as she knows all that Mini is doing is trying to learn. Mini’s mother on the other had has less patience and does not like Mini asking so many questions. It is also interesting that Mini’s father likes to escape into different worlds, he is a writer after all. However he always seems to be brought back down to life by family life.
There is also an element of trust in the story. By letting Mini talk and play with Rahman Mini’s father is trusting Rahman. Which may suggest that Mini’s father considers Rahman to be of good character. Mini’s mother on the other hand appears to be distraught that Mini is being allowed to talk to a person she knows nothing about. It is also noticeable that Rahman and Mini’s relationship is only fleeting. After Raham has been sentenced to jail for seven years. Mini after a period of time and as other girls would do forgets all about her friendship with Rahman. However despite the passing of time Rahman has never forgotten Mini. Something that is noticeable by the fact that he arrives to Mini’s home on the night of her wedding. There is also a sense that Mini does not recognise Rahman. There is no talk of their past and the meeting between the two ends abruptly. This is more than hurtful for Rahman because he knows that he has a young daughter the same age as Mini in his village and she too most likely will not recognise Rahman. Tagore possibly deliberately adding an element of sadness into the story through Rahman’s character.
Mini’s mother is also an interesting character. Though she has little patience for Mini’s continued talking she still nonetheless is concerned about her daughter. She knows what can happen on the streets of Calcutta and that Mini could easily be kidnapped. Though some critics might suggest that Mini’s mother is overreacting it is most likely that she is just protecting Mini from the dangers of the streets. Mini’s father on the other hand believes that Mini should be allowed to explore the world around her. To live her life to the best of her ability. Particularly when it comes to Rahman who has something that he can teach Mini. Rahman is very much a man of mystery with his stories he can help enlighten Mini’s already inquisitive mind. It is as though Rahman and Mini’s friendship is a match made in heaven. Rahman though he may have attacked a man with a knife over an unpaid debt has never brought any danger to Mini or her family. He at all times has been polite and good-natured when it comes to his engagement with Mini and her family.
The end of the story is also interesting as Mini’s father feels sympathy for Rahman. He knows that Rahman has a daughter and he knows that it is better for him to visit his daughter. The life he had previously lived in Calcutta is no more. So the money Rahman receives from Mini’s father is very helpful. It affords Rahman the opportunity to not only see his daughter again but there may also be a possibility that Rahman can become a Kabuliwala again. A life that reader knows Rahman very much enjoyed. It is also interesting that Mini’s father feels good about his act of charity. Just as he is together with his daughter at Mini’s wedding. So too can Rahman be with his daughter back in his village. Rahman will be able to put behind him the seven years he spent in jail and start a fresh life all over again. One that will include him getting to know his daughter all over again. Thanks to the charity of Mini’s father who could have avoided Rahman and have asked him to leave the house. If anything Mini’s father has showed an altruistic streak when he did not have to. He was not made or pushed to help Rahman rather he choose to. Which leaves the reader suspecting that Mini’s father is a good man. Who does not judge another person by their past. For Mini’s father the future and what an individual does with their future is important.