While "Kabuliwala" shows how time can test relationships, the story also shows the enduring strength of human emotions.
The effect of time on relationships is best seen in the relationship between Mini and the Kabuliwala. When she was a child, both Tagore's daughter and the old Kabuliwala were the best of friends. They shared inside jokes, laughter, and a deep connection. Eight years passes between them as Rahmun is imprisoned. When he is released, he returns to see his friend. The little girl he once knew stands in front of him as a bride-to-be.
Tagore details how time tests relationships when he writes how the Kabuliwala was unable "to revive their old friendship." Whereas Mini laughed at his joke about visiting her "father-in-law" she no longer is able to do so. As he makes the same joke, Mini "now understood the meaning of the word 'father-in-law' and she could not reply to his as of old." Tagore notes that time has forever altered their relationship: "I remembered the day when the Kabuliwallah and my Mini had first met, and I felt sad." Tagore also mourns the altering of his own relationship with Mini. As a child, Mini would talk to Tagore incessantly, interrupting his writing with her constant stream of chatter. As time has passed, Tagore notes that he and his daughter no longer speak to one another as they used to. When Tagore feels sad over what he sees with his daughter and the Kabuliwallah, he is also mourning how time has altered his own relationship with Mini.
Time has a powerful effect on human relationships. However, Tagore suggests that this effect does not have to be entirely debilitating. Human beings can use the passing of time to establish new emotional connections in their relationships. When Mini leaves, Rahmun's thoughts go back to his own child. Tagore notes that the Kabuliwala's connection his daughter motivated his friendship with Mini: "This touch of his own little daughter had been always on his heart, as he had come year after year to Calcutta, to sell his wares in the streets." When Rahmun "heaved a deep sight, and sat down on the floor," it is clear that he feels sad over time's passing and the gap between he and his own daughter. However, Tagore suggests that time's effect is not insurmountable. He says that Rahmun "would have to make friends with her anew." When Tagore gives him the money to go back to Afghanistan, it signals this chance for a new start. It is an instant where a new emotional connection can offset time's debilitating touch. It is for this reason that at the story's end Tagore is able to take solace that "in a distant land a long-lost father met again with his only child."
Time is shown to have a deteriorating effect on relationships in "Kabuliwala." It erodes the relationship that Rahmun has with his own daughter and with Mini. It also permanently alters the relationship that Tagore has with his child. On this level, it causes a sadness to see such human contact transformed through time. However, Tagore also shows that human beings can positively respond to this reality. While time alters what we once had, through Kabuliwala's example, human beings are able to new relationships. As a result, human emotion can withstand the pressures of time's touch.