The book ‘Kabuliwallah Stories’ published by Penguin books India is a collection of short stories of Rabindranath Tagore in English translated by William Radice a faculty in Bengali in the University of London. Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali poet, short story writer, song composer, playwright, essayist and painter is the Nobel laureate in literature of 1913.He was highly influencial of introducing the best of Indian culture to the West and vice versa.
In the opening story is on the Indian belief of myth overwhelming reality .The story is a satire in which a widow lady, Kadambini whose life function had been suspended for some time and people believed that she was dead .But when she regained her consciousness she found very difficult to believe that she was alive by seeing others attitude against her. She tried to prove her relatives that she was alive by cutting her brow and showing her hot blood. But they did not believe. So she threw herself into a well. Thus she proved it by dying that she had not been died!
There is another story of an orphan girl, Ratan and a Calcutta boy who came to the village as a postmaster and he met the girl. They became close friends. The girl cooked for him and helped him. The postmaster too considered her. One day he decided to resign the job and return to his home. Ratan was shocked and asked to take her with him, but the postmaster was not in a position to take her with him. She couldn’t console herself, the separation of their relationship. So Ratan lived with the sheer pain of the lovely memory she had been in his shelter.
There is another story of a stranger’s experience as a cotton tax collector at Barish .The stranger a co-passenger in a journey happens to wait for some time at a railway junction and he tells a strange story .The Reader is made to wonder whether his experiences were real. According to the narrator he had been visited by a ghost who belonged to a distant past . At the end of the story the reader also have similar feelings. The story is a pure fabrication from start to finish .A close scrutiny reveals that there is no supernaturalism in the story.
Kabuliwallah is one of the stories in the book .In this story an Afghan fruit seller called Rahamat who comes to Calcutta and befriends a little girl called Mini. Mini becomes very fond of him and he likes her also .One day he goes to jail for killing a customer who did not pay for his merchandise .When he is out of jail after so many years he comes to visit Mini. But she had grown up and was due to get married that day. She forgot him by then. Then Rahamath remembered his own daughter of the same age whome he had not seen for many years. He then goes to his country with tearful eyes.
These stories highlights themes such as love ,trust ,friendship ,loyalty ,class divides ,appearance ,reality and prejudice .The book brings together some of the best stories of Rabindranath Tagore .The stories convey a deep understanding of human relationship and a profoundly original vision of the world .Anyone who loves short stories should read this book, or you are missing out on a master of the craft.
Reviewed by Arundhati P. A.