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Cabuliwallah: Reading Comprehension

by Tiffany

Cabuliwallah (The Fruitseller from Kabul)
(also known as Kabuliwala) by Rabindranath Tagore

Reading Comprehension!
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.

Geography

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.

Even today, it is a main center of conflict regarding religious, political and military perspectives.

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.


1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Selected Vocabulary

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.


precarious
Adjective: unsure, insecure

The precarious nature of their relationship could be seen by the gestures each one made towards the other.

impending
Adjective: imminent, soon to happen
The thunder and lightning were ominous signs of impending doom.


judicious
Adjective: wise, calculated

The Cabuliwallah had overcome the child's first terror by a judicious bribery of nuts and almonds, and the two were now great friends.


composure
Noun: calmness, levelheadedness
Nancy showed great composure during a stressful period in her life.


euphemism

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.


formidable
Adjective: daunting or imposing in size
To my dismay, my opponent had a formidable amount of support for his campaign.

implore
Verb: beg

At this point Mini's mother would intervene, imploring me to "beware of that man."


fettered
Adjective: bound by chains or restraints

The beggar displayed his fettered hands to the village as they laughed cruelly at him.


pervade

Verb: to permeate or be present throughout; to fill or spread through
The smoke from the fire pervaded the air and all you could see was a blanket of grey.


Comprehension Questions

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?

Creative Thinking Exercises

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 Voice

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.


1. A hero and a heroine were created by the narrator for his story.
_____ ACTIVE _____ PASSIVE


2. Rahmun was called the Cabuliwallah by the people of Calcutta.
_____ ACTIVE _____ PASSIVE

3. Rahmun accepted the money for the almonds and raisins that the narrator handed him.

_____ ACTIVE _____ PASSIVE

4. He was taken to jail by the police for hitting a customer.
_____ ACTIVE _____ PASSIVE


5. Rahmun was released from his jailers on the day of Mini's wedding.
_____ ACTIVE _____ PASSIVE




Hope you had fun reading Cabuliwallah with me!

References and Images: Wikipedia, EMCP, Study Guide, friskodude

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