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The Kabuliwala

My five-year-old daughter could not spend a minute without talking it was only a year after she was born that she had mastered our language and since then she had not wasted a second after waking up in silence. Her mother often scolded her into a state of quietude, but I was not capable of those. Mini appeared so unnatural when quiet and I could not feel it very long. And so, her conversation with me always preceded with great enthusiasm. She would bombard me with questions like Ram Dayal the doorman calls the ‘crow’ ‘Kawa’ instead of crow “Baba: He doesn’t know anything. Does he? “

Without waiting for my opinion. She would suddenly ask what relation is between You and Maa. But instead of answering her many questions I told her to go and play with Bhola. I am busy. My room looked onto the street. I saw Mini abruptly stopped a game to rushed to the window and Shout Kabuliwala Kabuliwala Kabuliwala. Kabuliwala is one of those Hawkers of dried fruits who came along all the way from Afghanistan to make a living in Calcutta. He was walking slowly up the road with a turban on his head bag slung over his shoulder and two or three boxes of grapes in his hands. It was difficult to say what emotion he aroused in my daughter, but she began to call him out breathlessly.

But as soon as he turned smiling at Mini’s shout she started to walk toward our house and ran off at the top speed leaving no trace of her existence. I reflected that and I thought it will not be appropriate to invite him into the house and then to buy nothing. A few purchases were made along with a conversation in which we exchanged notes on Afghanistan, when he was about to leave. He finally asked. Where did your daughter go Babu I sent for Mini with the view to dispel her misplaced fears about him.

She stood casting suspicious glances at the Kabuliwala and his bag. He took some raisins and dried fruits from it and tried to give them to her, but she would not accept them clinging to my knees with double suspicion and this was how their first meeting ended.

 A few days later as I was about to leave the house to run an errand, I discover my Offspring Seated on bench next to the front door. Chattering while Rahmat set at her feet listening with a smile on his face. Occasionally interjecting his own Viewpoint in broken Bengali and Mini had never encountered such an attentive listener, now five years of life besides her father. The fold of Mini’s saree was full of nuts and raisins. Why did you give Her all this I asked Rahmat don’t do it again. And I took a half rupee coin out of my pocket and handed it to him. He accepted it without protest and put it in his bag. I returned home to find the half rupee coin at the heart of considerable trouble holding the circular silver object in a hand Minis mother was seriously asking her daughter. Where did you get this half rupee coin? Then mini told that the Rahmat gave it to her.why did you take it from him?He gave it to me on his own because I told him stories and in return, he gave me this money. I rescued her from the imminent danger and took her outside.

Over time I observed that the two friends had established certain exchanges and jokes for instance. My daughter would ask laughing what does in your bag? Rahmat adding a nasal tone would answer also laughing an elephant. Their point of the humour involved the presence of the elephant in his Bag. It could not be termed as particularly simple. But nevertheless, both of them were considerably amused by the joke and the simple laughter of middle-aged man and the child brought me some Joy too. They had another ritual exchange Rahmat would tell her you must never get married and go to your father-in-law’s house. And he used to say that if he will trouble you, I will kill the father-in-law. And on this mini would love her head off.

One day, when her mother was perpetually apprehensive about everything Every noise in the street made her imagine that every drunkard in the world was rushing towards our house, despite all the years that she had lived, she still hadn’t freed herself from the thought that the Universe was Full of nothing but thieves and robbers and drunkards and snakes and tigers and malaria and earthworms and cockroaches and Whiteman all intent, which strike Terror into her heart. She was not entirely free of doubts about Rahmat the Kabuliwala requesting repeatedly that I keep an eye on him. I would not agree to her suspicions, but I had to acknowledge that it was not impossible although unlikely.

The capacity for trust it is not the same in everyone and my wife remained apprehensive. One day Rahmat didn’t show up and Mini waited for him without eating anything at the door. When I saw Mini she was sitting in a Namaz posture, Praying. On asked she told I’m praying to God so that he sends Kabuliwala to me and I asked her who taught her to pray in this posture. She told that she has seen Rahmat to pray to Allah like this. I tried to convince her that I will pray to Allah while she has her breakfast and after being assured, she went for breakfast.

Suddenly there was an uproar on the street. I discovered two policemen frogging Rahmat down the road followed by a group of curious urchin’s remarking about him, clothes were stained with blood and one of the policemen held a dripping dagger in his hand. I stopped the policeman to ask what the matter was. The story was told. Partly by the policeman and partly by Rahmat himself. One of the neighbours owned some money for a shawl that he has bought. The neighbour had wrongly denied his debt and in the course of an altercation with him Rahmat stabbed him with his dagger. The Kabuliwala was showering expletives on the liar when mini emerged from the house calling out Kabuliwala Kabuliwala. Rahmat’s expressions changed in an Instant to be cheerful. There was no bag slung over his shoulder that day. There was no useful discussion, and Mini asked him where he was going. He said that he’s going to his father-in-law, but he cannot beat him because his hands are tied. Mini However wasn’t amused and police took him to jail for several years.

We forgot him passing our days with our usual Works in our homes. We never stopped to consider, how a free man accustomed to roaming in the mountains would cope up spending years in prison. Quickly forgetting about her old friend My daughter Grew Older. Many years passed my Minis wedding has been arranged. She would be married during the Durga Puja holidays. And I was doing some accounting in my room when Rahmat appeared and saluted me. I did not recognize him at first, he had neither his bag nor his long hair His body did not look as powerful as it was once but with his smile, I eventually identified him. I said, when did you get back? I was released from jail yesterday evening his reply rang a discordant note. I had never seen a convicted murderer with my own eyes and seeing him there that too on an auspicious Day made me shrink. I wish the man would go away. I told him there is something important Going on in our house. I’m dizzy. You would better Go.Now hearing this he became ready to leave at once. But when he was about to reach the door, he said with some hesitation can’t I see Mini? He probably thought that Mini had not changed perhaps he had expected her to come running up as before shouting Kabuliwala, assuming that there had been no break in the tradition to honour the old friendship.

He had gone to the trouble of collecting the box of grapes as well as some nuts and raisins wrap them in a paper from a car fellow countryman. He no longer had his own bag. There are some ceremonies in our home today and seeing Mini would be impossible. He seemed disappointed and standing still he looked at me for a few moments and then he said Salam as he started leaving. I felt a Pang. I was considering calling him back when I heard him returning. He came up to me and said I bought some grapes and a few nuts and raisins for Mini. Please give it to her. I was about to pay for it. Suddenly he grabbed my hand. You are very kind sir and I shall always remember you please don’t pay me. I have a daughter back home just like you and I think of her whenever I see Mini. I brought raisins for her out of love and not out of business. Putting his hand inside his long loose salwar. He pulled out a dirty piece of paper he unfolded it carefully and hurled it across my desk and it bore a print of a tiny Pair of Hands. Not a photograph not an oil painting just some lampblack smeared on Palms to make this.

Rahmat travelled to Calcutta streets every year to sell his dry fruits holding the remembrance of his daughter close to his breast as though the touch of this tiny tender baby hands preserved in his heart inside the broad chest. Tears filled my eyes and I immediately forgot that he was a seller of dried food from Kabul and I’m a member of a respectable Bangla family. I’ve simply realized that he was the father and so was I. The handprint of little daughter from his home in the mountains reminded me of Mini. I sent for my daughter at once. They objected in the lady’s chamber, but I paid them no attention. She appeared shyly in my room dressed as a bride in her red wedding dress. Rahmat was taken aback when he saw her but seem unable to revive the old bond. Finally. He said with a smile Mini you are leaving for your father-in-law’s she now knew what these words meant, and she was blushing at his question. I remember the day when Mini and Kabuliwala met for the first time and I felt the same twinge of pain.

After Mini left Rahmat slumped to the floor with the sign. He suddenly realized that his own daughter would have been grown up to in the same way and he would have to know her all over again. She would no longer be as she had been who knew what might have happened to her during these past eight years. Muhammad visualized the mountains and cold deserts of Afghanistan. I gave him some money and told him to go back home. Let the happiness of the reunions of him with her daughter be a blessing for Mini. Giving him the money Forced me to remove one or two items from the celebration. I could not do the electric lights as lavishly as I had intended to neither music as I had planned. The ladies expressed the strong displeasure. Nonetheless I found the joyous festivities Brightened by a benedictory luminescence.

Happy reading!!!

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