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Cabuliwallah (The Fruitseller
(also known as Kabuliwala) by Rabindranath Tagore
The following questions and information should help you out with Tagore's Cabuliwallah. By reading through this lesson, you'll be better able to understand what this story is all about and give yourself some questions to think about! If you haven't already, click here to read the original short story and learn a little about Tagore.
A. Cabuliwallahs are peddlers or fruit sellers from
Kabul - a city in Afghanistan. Kabul is the capital city and has
been destroyed many times due to civil wars. In the past Kabul's
Khyber Pass, a mountain massage between Afghanistan and Pakistan,
has been fought over by British, Persians and Russians alike.
B. Tagore's story takes place in Calcutta. It is in eastern India in the state of West Bengal. The third largest city in India, it currently has a population of over 15 million. After you have read the story, list five or more elements unique to Indian culture which have been mentioned by Tagore.
Cabuliwallah is a pretty easy read, but you may want to remind yourself of the following definitions as you come across them in your reading.
The precarious nature of their relationship could be seen by the gestures each one made towards the other.
The Cabuliwallah had overcome the child's first terror by a judicious bribery of nuts and almonds, and the two were now great friends.
Noun: A word or phrase which substitutes a more pleasant expression in place of a more offensive one.
"Friendly fire" is simply a euphemism which means army members have accidentally killed one of their own soldiers.
At this point Mini's mother would intervene, imploring me to "beware of that man."
The beggar displayed his fettered hands to the village as they laughed cruelly at him.
Verb: to permeate or be present throughout; to fill
or spread through
After you read the story, try to answer the following questions to see if you stand what you've just read.
1. What does Mini, the author's daughter, have the tendency to often do? How do her parents feel about this?
2. Why is Mini frightened of the Cabuliwallah fruit seller?
3. What does the author do when he sees Mini with the Cabuliwallah's gifts? What does the Cabuliwallah do in return?
4. How does the Cabuliwallah overcome Mini's fears of him?
5. What is the double meaning which the author conveys in "father-in-law's house"?
6. Why is Rahmun arrested?
7. How does the situation change the joke the Cabuliwallah and Mini had shared?
8. Who appears on the night of Mini's wedding? How has he changed?
9. What has Rahmun carried with him for many years? How does this change Mini's father's feelings?
10. What new meaning does Mini and Rahmun's old joke have?
11. What happens when Mini's father gives money to Rahmun? How does he think this will affect the festivities?
Analyzing the Text
Now that you understand the story quite well, it's time for you to put your noggin to good use. Consider these questions and answer them using your critical thinking skills. Look for examples in the text to back up your argument or opinion.
1. Analyze the relationship between Mini and Rahmun. What do they do with each other? How do they feel towards one another? Explain your answer with examples.
2. Predict what Rahmun and Mini's relationship would have been like if Rahmun had never gone to jail. How would both of their lives be different if they never separated?
3. Why does Rahmun develop a special friendship with young Mini? Do you think this is a good reason? Why or why not?
4. What underlying themes are in the story? What theme is highlighted by the change in Mini, according to Rahmun, by the end of the story?
5. What techniques does Tagore use to characterize Rahmun? Which of Rahmun's behaviors show that he loves his only daughter very much?
1. Pretend you are Rahmun. Write a letter to your daughter in the mountains of Afghanistan, telling her how you feel about her, what you keep always in your possession, and why you have been separated.
2. Write a wedding invitation for Rahmun.
3. Let's imagine that Mini and Rahmun were never separated. Write a short story describing their life and what their relationship would be like.
4. Pretend you are Rahmun writing from jail to your daughter. What would you say? What would you want her to know?
Active vs. Passive
One part of grammar is the relationship between active and passive voice.
In active voice the subject of the sentence performs the verb action: "The woman mailed the letter."
In passive voice, the subject doesn't perform the verb action: "The letter was mailed by the woman."
Here's an exercise for you: determine whether the following sentences are written in passive or active voice. Rewrite the passive voice sentences in active voice instead.