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The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

IBNS | 28 May 2015, 03:45 pm

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  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    Armed with spices, dry fruits and attar from their country, the first Kabuliwalas went from door to door to sell their items. Over decades, they’ve resorted to more lucrative trades like money-lending.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    In 1892, Rabindranath Tagore, often referred to as Bengal’s Shakespeare, wrote a short story about a man from a distant land – Afghanistan – living in Kolkata. Over the century, these interpretations helped shape a romantic image of Afghans in more than just Bengal.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    They are men with distinct features - piercing eyes and rugged face. Dressed in their traditional attire, they’ve made Kolkata their new home, a city thousands of miles away from their own homeland.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    The people of Kolkata call them the ‘Kabuliwala’. While the city has become their new abode, they carry with them memories and belongings of their home.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    Amir Khan, the leader of the clan, was born in India. Although a third generation Kabuliwala, he is deeply tied to his heritage.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    Their trade may have changed, but their traditions remain the same. Through communal prayers and dining on the dastarkwhan, they’ve managed to preserve their culture.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    It’s these age-old customs that have linked generations together and kept this little-known community alive. Today, there are only 5000 families in Kolkata. In comparison to the 16 million living in the city, they are the distinct “other”.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    In Kolkata, the Maidan remains their chosen ground. Dressed in their traditional attire - the flowing over-sized salwar kameez - many gather at the iconic Victoria Memorial to live out a little bit of their traditional passions - flying a kite, Anda Kushti (hard-boiled egg fights) and performing the Pashtun Attan dance. It’s a custom that’s been followed for close to a century, from the time the first Afghans settled in Kolkata.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    Though immersed in their traditions, it’s their identity that is in limbo. Stuck in a vacuum of space between two different worlds, they are as Pashtun as Indian. With only a few identity cards, the idea of belonging is filled with tensions between dreams and realities - of merging, exclusion and exile.

  • The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

    From the corners of his home in the far away land, the Kabuliwala dreams of his motherland by clinging onto little mementos that had been passed on by earlier generations.

The Kabuliwala of Kolkata

IBNS
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