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Rabindranath Tagore & Our Mascot Kabuli

Rabindranath Tagore and our mascot

We have a mascot. And we’re very pleased to introduce you to him. Before we do, we want to tell you how he came about. 

Kabuliwala (roughly translated to mean ‘the man from Kabul’) is a story by one of the most famous authors of India, Rabindranath Tagore, written more than a century ago. It’s the tale of a Pashtun from Kabul, an Afghan, who traveled into Bengal (what is today a state in modern India), selling dry fruits. 

Some of you may already be familiar with this story, but for those who are not, here is a quick summary: 

Rahmat, the protagonist of the story travels annually to Calcutta to sell his merchandise. He befriends a girl called Mini, who reminds him of his own daughter back in Afghanistan. Due to his own daughter falling ill, he has to return back to his homeland, selling his goods on credit to local buyers. Upon returning, he goes to collect his money, only to be insulted and abused by one of his customers. Rahmat warns the aggressor not to abuse, telling him that he will not tolerate abuse. When his warnings go unheeded, Rahmat stabs the man. In court, when asked by the judge to recount what took place, Rahmat simply speaks the truth, though his lawyers try every means of diplomacy to obscure facts. Pleased by such honesty, the judge reduces his sentence from the death penalty to 10 years of imprisonment. When he is finally released, he goes to see Mini, the little girl he befriended, only to find her a grown woman, preparing for her own wedding. Mini’s father gives Rahmat money to travel back to Kabul and Mini sends a gift for Rahmat’s daughter. 

What does this story have to do with our mascot? Here’s what our founder has to say:

“In 2020, when the first mela was being built, our focus was (and still is) on how to connect consumers to our rural entrepreneurs. We wanted to give them an engaging, immersive experience that transforms online shopping.  In the real world, there’s always someone at a store to show us products, make suggestions and come along with us. Could that be possible in the online world as well? 

This character walked into my mind already fully formed. He was funny, cute, and lovable. He was Mr. Bean-meets-the-fun-Indian, the uncle. As a writer, the creative side of me was excited to know how the melas would be shaped by him. I knew, somehow, that I should name him Kabuli. Tagore’s story came to mind. For me, the story of Kabuliwala was more than just a theme of fatherly love. Every micro-entrepreneur in a mela is Kabuliwala. They travel great distances to come to us in cities, passing through Time from the familiarity of their traditions to the frenzy of modern life. Is our ignorance of their struggles an abuse? I heard it said once, that poverty is violence with the consent of society. When they warn us not to abuse, do we really stop? Unlike Kabuliwala in the story, however, they do not fight back in defense. Without trial they are imprisoned in harsh economic conditions, isolated from the digital world, their livelihood security under constant threat, and their access to basic necessities of modern living hindered by neglect. With them, we bargain to bring down prices by a few hundred, sometimes even tens of rupees. How often are their voices even heard?”

It is our hope that Kabuli will be the teller of their tales, the charming purveyor of their goods, the wise imparter of knowledge providing you with the right information. So please meet Kabuli!