"Kabuliwala" is a tale of human relationships and the effect of time on human emotions. Elaborate on this statement with close reference to the story.

The way time alters human emotion is demonstrated by the development of the Kabuliwala and Mini's friendship. While they are the best of friends when Mini is five years old, the Kabuliwala later finds that eight years apart has completely changed the dynamic between them, now that Mini is a young woman. This makes the Kabuliwala understand that he must change the way he interacts with the world as time progresses.

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In Rabindranath Tagore's short story “Kabuliwala,” an unexpected yet beautiful relationship arises between a little girl named Mini and Rahmun, the Kabuliwala or peddler. Despite their difference in age, the two laugh and joke together and simply enjoy one another's company.

Then, Rahmun lashes out at a customer who tries to cheat him and is hauled off to prison. He spends eight years behind bars, and by the time he returns, Mini is grown up. In fact, on the day Rahmun comes back, Mini is to be married. At first, her father, the story's narrator, does not let Rahmun see Mini. But then Rahmun tells him that he has a little daughter of his own back in his home village. Of course, this little girl would also be grown up by now. The narrator understands Rahmun's feelings and allows him to see Mini.

But of course, their relationship has changed. Mini is no longer a little girl, ready to laugh at Rahmun's jokes. The easy familiarity between them is gone. Mini mostly looks at the floor. The narrator sympathizes with Rahmun, for his relationship with Mini has changed as well. When she was small, Mini would chatter to her father for hours, but as she grows older, she spends more and more time with her friends and hardly speaks to her father at all.

The narrator knows that when Rahmun returns to his home, he will find his own daughter changed as well. He gives the peddler money for travel and necessities and thinks about the meeting that will take place between Rahmun and his own daughter.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 28, 2021
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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.  

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