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It is autumn. In the ancient times, kings used to embark on their conquering quests during this season. I have never stirred outside Kolkata but my mind keeps roaming around the world. I feel very excited whenever I hear about other countries; whenever I see a foreigner, my mind conjures up an image of a solitary cottage in a dale with a river flowing by it. I begin imagining a life of wild joyous freedom. But, by nature, I am inert like a vegetable. If I have to abandon my corner and undertake a journey, I feel as though I have been hit by a thunderbolt. So, every morning, while sitting in my small room, my curiosity would be satiated by listening to the Kabuliwallah telling me about his homeland - about the tall peaks on either side; the narrow paths; the long train of camels loaded with goods; the turbaned traders and wayfarers, some riding on camels and others on foot, some carrying lances while others carrying guns. The Kabuliwallah would tell me about his homeland, and its fleeting picture would pass by my eyes and satisfy my wanderlust.
Mini's mother gets scared easily. If she hears a sound outside, she imagines that a whole horde of drunkards are rushing towards our house. In her opinion, the world is infested by thieves, robbers, drunkards, snakes, tigers, and a whole lot of diseases and pests. She was rather wary of Rahamat Kabuliwallah and had requested me to keep an eye on him. If I tried to laugh away her fears, she would ask me few questions: "Don't children get stolen? Isn't slave trade prevalent in Kabul? Is it impossible for a gigantic man like the Kabuliwallah to carry away a small child?"
I had to admit that this was not impossible; but argued that it was unbelievable. Despite my wife's fears, I could not tell Rahamat to stop coming to my house.
Every year, during the middle of winter, Rahamat returns to his homeland. Near the time of departure, he is usually very busy since he has to visit his debtors to collect his dues. Yet he would find time to come and meet Mini. It appeared as if there was some sort of conspiracy between him and Mini; if he could not come in the morning, he would come in the evening. A doubt would creep into my mind whenever I saw the huge Kabuliwalla, attired in his loose clothes, in the dusk. But the very next moment all my doubts would evaporate and my heart would fill with joy when I saw Mini rushing up to him while gushing, "Kabuliwalla, oh Kabuliwallah" all the time and the two friends, separated by years in age, revelling in their regular childish raillery.
One morning, I was sitting in my room and correcting my manuscript. It was rather chilly; before bidding goodbye, the winter chill had intensified over the past few days. The comforting rays of sunlight pierced through the window and warmed my feet. It was a luxurious experience. I think it was eight o'clock, and the early morning walkers, covered from head to foot, were returning home. All of a sudden I heard a commotion outside. Peeping out of the window, I saw two policemen escorting Rahamat whose hands were bound. A bunch of children followed them. There were blood stains on Rahamat's clothes, while one of the policemen held a bloody knife in his hand. I stepped outside the house and enquired of the policeman as to what was the matter.
Partly from the policeman and partly from Rahamat I gathered that one of our neighbours had owed a certain amount to Rahamat, having had purchased a Rampuri shawl from the latter. However, the neighbour later refused to acknowledge he owed any money. Rahamat, in a fit of anger, had stabbed him.
Rahamat began to hurl abuses at the neighbour. Just then Mini came out of the house while exclaiming, "Kabuliwallah, oh Kabuliwallah."
Rahamat's face at once lit up on seeing her. He was not carrying his bundle today so Mini could not ask him as to what he was carrying. Instead she asked, "Will you go to your father-in-law's house?"
"That is where I am going," Rahamat said with a laugh.
But perceiving that the reply had not made Mini laugh, he showed his hands and said, "I would have thrashed my father-in-law; but what can I do, my hands are bound."
Rahamat was held guilty of causing grievous bodily harm, and sentenced to a few years imprisonment.
Some useful links for
- Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
- IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
- Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
- Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
- Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
- IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
- Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
- Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
- Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
- Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu