By Moska Najib & Nazes Afroz
“O Kabuliwala! Kabuliwala!' and the two friends, so unequal in age, would subside into their old laughter and their old jokes.”
In 1892, Rabindranatha Tagore
wrote a short story in Bengali about a man from a distant land - Afghanistan - living in Kolkata. Since then, the Kabuliwala
has taken on a life of its own, with translations in many Indian and foreign languages as well as cinematic adaptations and theatrical performances. While until a few decades ago, real Kabuliwalas were a common sight on the streets of Kolkata, as in most cities of north and central India, today stereotypes and standard attributes have formed an ambiguous image of these people.
Inspired by this story, Moska Najib
and Nazes Afroz
, two journalist-cum-photographers, embarked on a project about the Kabuliwalas of Kolkata that touches upon social transformations within this community over the past 100 years. Taking cues from the literary and aesthetic themes encapsulated in Tagore's short story, the two artists have captured the stories of this secluded and little-known settlement in the present time through documentary and set up art photography. The series will connect viewers to the themes of human bonding as narrated by Tagore and will also touch on the issues of loss of identity and a new sense of belonging. Viewers will experience the tension between preserving an identity and rebuilding a home in a new space.