How does Tagore poignantly describe the bonding of a friendship as well as the heartbreak in 'Kabuliwala'.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most powerful ways in which Tagore describes the bonding of a friendship is through a shared vocabulary that few others understand.  When Mina and the Kabuliwallah would exchange their traditional greeting of "O Kabuliwallah, Kabuliwallah, what have you got in your bag?" and "Well, little one, and when are you going to the father-in-law's house," a pure form of communication is established.  It is innocent, full of an old man's joy and the little girl's peals of laughter.  No one else understands it, but they do.  This communication underscores the story.  When the old man is arrested, Mina asks him the same question and he responds in the same way.  This comes full circle at the end of the short story.  On the girl's wedding day, after a prolonged absence due to the old man's imprisonment, he appears and asks her the same question.  It has gained greater significant because of the time that has passed.  From a child laughing with innocence, the girl has become a young woman, ready to embark on the next stage of her life.  The bonding of friendship over shared communication has given way to a heartbreak. It has become clear that the girl understands what "father in law" now means to her.  While the communication has remained constant, spanning time, it means different elements.  When the narrator sees this communication, he understands how time has passed and how there used to be a bond that has given way to time.  This creates a sense of poignancy in the moment.

The narrator's function itself is another means through which a sense of emotional connection is established. It is poignant that the father who saw his chatterbox of a daughter commiserate with the old man now sees his girl about to be married.  It is also in this light where he understands the pain of the old man, who sees in the girl his own daughter and his own life before him:  "Tears came to my eyes. I forgot that he was a poor Kabuli fruit-seller, while I was--but no, what was I more than he? He also was a father. That impression of the hand of his little Parbati in her distant mountain home reminded me of my own little Mini."  In the moment where two fathers experience  an emotional rollercoaster, one sees Tagore's greatness in establishing the bonding of attachment and the pain of heartbreak.

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