Kabuliwala – The Keepsakes


Author – Nidhi Balodi

Image Source – onmogul.com

I am a reader. No, I won’t add voracious, because adjectives are not necessary to highlight the beauty of this word. Further, I believe it does not matter how many books you have read, but how well you read them. I might not have 1,000 books on my Goodreads ‘read shelf, but still, I am thankful that I have enjoyed all those I have read.

I always wonder how small gifts can change the entire course of our life. In my childhood, my cousin used to gift books on every other occasion and it took no time for those magic boxes to become a habit. I like to see them every day, re-read them again learn something from them every time. Surprisingly, I find something new every time even when I read the simplest of the stories again.

Just a few days back, I was reading “Kabuliwala” like a zillionth time to go down on the memory lane to peek into my childhood. It is a heart touching story by Rabindranath Tagore, which beautifully depicts a bond between a father and a daughter. Kabuliwala is the story about a little, talkative and a chirpy girl ‘Mini’ living in Calcutta, who develops a strong bond with a middle-aged dry-fruit seller, named ‘Abdul Rahman Khan’. Abdul, being an Afghani immigrant, is suspected by locals as a kidnapper, so Mini’s mother is cautious in the beginning. She does not allow Mini to interact with him, but her father does not put any objections on her meeting with Abdul. As time passes, Mini and Abdul become great friends. Abdul sees an image of his own daughter in Mini, who lives in Kabul. He missed his daughter dearly and so he showers Mini with love and gave her dry fruits free.

When Mini enquiries Abdul about his family and in-laws, he jokingly replies that he will beat his father-in-law. Sometime later, Abdul is arrested by police for assaulting a man and is sentenced to 10 years in jail. The day Abdul is released from jail, he goes straightway to Mini. But as he reaches Mini’s home, he realizes that the little girl he had known was now a beautiful young lady all set to get married. This makes him emotional and reminds him of his own daughter in Kabul.

Even after reading this story again, I was expecting to be enthralled by something new and voila! I found it again! Do you remember that part of the story when Mini asks Kabuliwala when he would go to his in-laws? And he replies jokingly that he will beat his father-in-law? Later in the story when he was being arrested by police, he tells Mini that he is going to his in-laws. This time when I read the book, I got to know that in Kabuliwala’s Pathan community “going to in-laws” actually means “going to jail”.

As a kid, I never understood this part of the story nor did I find Abdul’s idea of beating up his father-in-law sensible. But now it all makes sense. Some of you might have already known this, but for me, it was a kind of a revelation. Now that I’m older, I have realized that the world isn’t a perfect place to live in and things may not be the way you want them to be. It is necessary to hold onto hope during these troubled times.

I re-read such literary classics, because they give me a sense of a utopian society where everything turns out to be perfect and fine. These books have ideal characters with moral and in our entire childhood we believed the world is made up of such moralistic characters. However, reality does hit you at some point and you realise that no one is ideal.

It is necessary to go back to childhood books that preach morals to help us guide our way when our morals are shaky in our adult lives. Sometimes we feel like the child in us is not expressing itself and it is important to let that child live. That child comes alive when we read our childhood books about magic and believe in it. “When you believe in magic, it happens”. They also bring us closer to our childhood and by doing so, we regain our innocence even if only for a few moments.

So, go and pick those childhood keepsakes like Kabuliwala and read them again. You might find answers to those questions that the little kid in you always wanted to know. Maybe they got worn away with time, but still, they are those same books from where you started your journey into the world of books.

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