Guwahati: A touching tale of moneylenders once told by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore over a century back in his story ‘Kabuliwala,’ is contemporary even now. And what is more interesting is that the tale is relevant even now in Assam as many Afghans residing in Assam share the same tale!
Rahim Khan, an Afghan moneylender residing in Guwahati said, “My grandfather Barkat Ali Khan, just like the protagonist in Tagore’s story came to Assam during the 1970s from Kabul in order to trade dry fruits and other native products of Afghanistan.”
“From bartering dry fruits to lending money, our forefathers and even us are doing the same. Afghanistan is a war-torn nation and what we dream of is ultimate peace when our children do not have to carry the weight of Kalashnikovs, but of school bags. Inshallah (God Willing), a day will come when at least my children and their children could breathe freely in our own nation,” believes Khan.
Another Afghan origin businessman in Guwahati, Rehmat Massoud who belongs from the Panjshir Valley while narrating his story said, “There are hundreds of Afghans who are the third generation including me, we have not visited our land since many years. But the love and dignity that this country has showered over us, it does not let us feel even for a moment that we are foreigners. Money lending is our ancestral business and this is what we do. But when it comes to collection, it depends from party to party. Some customers are so faithful that we even do not mind to waive off their interest rates. But yes, sometimes the private money lending business does end us in trouble. That’s life! At least better than getting ourselves killed in our own conflict-hit motherland.”
“We are Afghans, but we consider Assam our home. It is a natural instinct as this land has been providing us with both food and earnings,” Massoud added.
While speaking over business propositions, the Afghans or preferably called as the ‘Kabuliwalas’ equivocally said that they hope their business flourish in the region as economic activities are witnessing a rise in the state.
As per Rahim Khan, he believes that if he collects all the debts, nearly Rs 7 lakhs, he would definitely try and visit Afghanistan where his ancestors lived, bled and sacrificed their life.