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GB Children’s Day Special – Tagore’s Minnie and a child’s impact on a burly Kabuliwala

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The timeless appeal of a child’s love has never been portrayed as sensitively as Rabindranath Tagore did in his several poems and short stories. May be his eternal yearning for his own mother, who he hardly got to enjoy with, kept stirring his inner soul that lead to creating child characters that go beyond time and space. Even a century back when he wrote about the friendship of a Kabuliwala who had come from Afghanistan to Kolkata and a little girl Minnie, probably he knew such friendships will last the test of time, beyond borders and age difference. He also reflects through his classic how a child’s love can win over everything.

The voice of his short story Kabuliwala, is lent by Minnie’s father, who is touched by the gesture of Rahamat, the Kabuliwala from Kabul who frequents his house to sell dry fruits and shawls. The man dressed in ethnic Kabul attire with a huge turban and a bag on his back had fascinated the little girl Minnie.

Minnie’s father introduces his daughter to him, breaking all shackles of social hindrances and an odd friendship strikes between the two. Rahamat starts calling the little girl Khuki. Their friendship blossoms, they meet every day, with Rahamat narrating stories of his homeland to make the girl happy. Soon, Minnie’s mother grows suspicious of this flourishing friendship and fears Rahamat might even kidnap and sell her daughter. The father is forced to ask the Kabuliwala not to come to his house anymore.

On the other hand, Rahamat also gets arrested for stabbing someone during a scuffle. After a 10-year imprisonment, he returns, again to his ‘little friend’ who is now a grown up girl about to be married. Rahamat’s pain of leaving his own daughter back in Kabul comes to light and he realises his daughter must have grown up too. It is here that we find a child’s love blossoming into an intrinsic feeling that touches everyone. Minnie’s father gives Rahamat money to return to Kabul. This is where Tagore brings out the ultimate tale of a child’s impact on two grown ups. No wonder we often say ‘a child is the father of man.’