Short Story Reading Challenge – Deal Me in 2017
As I play around with the order I had planned for the reviews I was going to write this week, here is my first review for a short story – Tagore’s Kabuliwala. My list of stories for
this challenge are in the google docs here or in my first review post here.
Week 16 – 5 of Hearts – a short story by Tagore – First off, for Hearts, I decided to go with Stories/Authors I love(including some rereads) and to pick an unread short or a short not read for a long while by these authors. Tagore is a beloved author from childhood and the first story I read which is easily my favorite and most memorable (at least the first lines) is Kabuliwala. I read it in one of my Hindi textbooks in school years ago (maybe grade 5 or so). And mom recalled reading it when she was a kid and she had memorized the story(she still recites it) which starts in it’s Hindi translation with ‘मेरी पाँच बरस की लड़की मिनी से घड़ीभर भी बोले बिना नहीं रहा जाता।’ (Translated to English, this is ‘My five years’ old daughter Mini cannot live without chattering.’). And you are introduced to one central character of the story right there – Mini. Told in first-person by Mini’s father (an aspiring author who is – while indulging his daughter – also in the middle of his next literary creation), this is the story of the sweet friendship between Mini and Rahmat Khan, the tall, turbaned Pathan (the Kabuliwala). It tugs at your heartstrings effortlessly and reading this again made me understand the concept of pathos – this is it! This story transcends race, age, nationalities, and gender and leaves the reader with a sweet poignancy.
You can read the story here. . I found a beautiful quilt portraying this story and other stories by Tagore in Patrick Finn’s Timeless Textiles collection here. The story has inspired movie-makers (two films have been made based on this, in Hindi and in Bengali) and continues to inspire playwrights and the stage over and over again.
Note: Kabuliwala is a term that was used for Afghans who had traveled to Calcutta and peddled their wares (usually dried fruits, nuts, spices, and perfumes from their native land) door-to-door to make money and send it back home. Today, the term is still used for the many who have made the city their home and I loved this photo-essay about them.