Discuss the character sketch of Rahamat in "Kabuliwallah" by Rabindranath Tagore.

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

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Rahamat is displayed with a powerful presence that indicates something underneath the surface.  On face value, he is a fruit seller and Tagore describes him in an almost wanderer quality.  The impression of him at the first description is that he is one that causes an immediate sense of fear in Mini, the child who is afraid that he captures children and places them in his large bag that he has across his shoulder.  Over time, Tagore draws out his character as one who forges a bond with the little girl.  He is committed to seeing her every day, "bribing" her with almonds and raisins.  Tagore plays with the reader in this description, almost trying to tease the reader into believing something sinister in Rahamat's actions in expressing the concerns that the wife of the narrator has in the story.  The familiar question that helps to forge the bond between both Rahamat and the girl involves him asking her when she is going to her father in- law's house.  The fact that he returns after he was imprisoned and asks the girl the same question on the eve of her marriage helps to allow a fuller understanding of the now aged fruit seller.  His bond with the girl is representative of the bond he wished to have with his own daughter in his native Afghanistan.  When he asks the girl the same question on the eve of her wedding, it is a moment, a reflection, of his own life and how his own girl would be preparing for marriage.  While Rahamat could not be there for his own daughter, he is there for this girl.  The sentiment of yearning for what cannot be and seeking to bring it into existence with what is in front of us is heightened when Rahamat takes out a small piece of paper with the handprint of his daughter.  It is at this moment that the speaker, and the reader, understand the pain and yearning that exists in this man.  His wandering is not as physical as much as it is emotional, to find some semblance of personal contentment in a world and condition that is predisposed to not giving it to him.

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