Kolkata’s Kabuliwalas pray for family & friends back home – Times of India

Kolkata News
KOLKATA: As news of the Taliban entering Kabul and taking over the presidential palace came in on Sunday afternoon, Dildar Khan, a tall, strapping Afghan knelt down on the ground to offer namaz on the Maidan, thousands of miles away.
Dressed in a voluminous Pathani, as he folded his hands and raised them in the air to pray, his eyes turned moist with the thought of his younger bother and his family in the provincial town of Mazar-i-Sharif, along with millions of other Afghans back in his country who have been hurled into uncertainty with the withdrawal of American forces and the subsequent Taliban takeover.
“My watan (country) is going through another azmaish (test) but we are a resilient tribe who will fight these forces. I prayed today for the well-being of my younger brother and his family and millions of Afghans whose future might have become uncertain again,” said Dildar, a second-generation Afghan in Kolkata.
Close to 50 Afghan men in their Pathanis, embroidered waistcoats and huge turbans with fantails joined Dildar in the prayers with a heavy heart on Sunday afternoon. They congregate on the Maidan every Sunday to play cricket and sing Pashto ballads. But their hearts were heavy this Sunday.
“Two decades ago, with the defeat of the Taliban, we had hoped that there would be a new beginning for our motherland. Many youngsters had started to dream of a prosperous future in their own country. Now, everything seems uncertain again,” said Yahya Gul after offering namaz.
The Afghan diaspora in Kolkata now is around 7,000 strong. Many buildings in Chandni Chowk, Madan Street, Bentinck Street and other parts of central Kolkata are still identified as Pathan kothis, where these men stay in commune-like arrangements.
A very anxious week, say city Afghans
Even now, for many Bengalis, the image of an Afghan conjures up Rahmat Khan, the fictional Kabuliwala from Tagore’s eponymous story, later made into a popular movie starring Chhabi Biswas in the titular role. Here, Rahmat, a dry-fruits seller from Kabul, befriends a little girl, Mini, who reminds him of the daughter he left behind in Afghanistan.
Afghans have been coming to Kolkata for centuries selling dry fruits, asafoetida and carpets. But most men are now in the business of lending money on interest, becoming an integral part of a micro-economy of Kolkata’s working population.

A file picture of Afghans enjoying a pleasant afternoon on the Maidan

“This has been a very anxious week for us, watching the developments back home on television. We are trying to remain in touch with our families and relatives back home but very little information is coming in,” said Shadab Khan. Several senior Kabuliwalas recalled the fall of Kabul in the mid-1990s and said the sequence of events then made them more anxious. “Mohammed Najibullah Ahmedzai was the president of Afghanistan between 1987 and 1992. The Taliban, after capturing Kabul in 1996, executed him and brutalised his body under full international glare. We just hope the same brutalities are not repeated now,” said Amir Khan, who has been staying in Kolkata for over four decades.
People from Bengal trapped in Kabul: Reports
Some people from Bengal could be trapped in Kabul and are still waiting to be evacuated, preliminary reports indicated on Monday. Darjeeling MP Raju Bista has also written a letter on this to external affairs minister S Jaishankar, naming two persons with their passport and phone numbers. The numbers remained unreachable. In Darjeeling, Bandana Rai Thapa complained that her husband Chandra Kumar was stuck in Kabul after he went to work as a security guard.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/kolkatas-kabuliwalas-pray-for-family-friends-back-home/articleshow/85384747.cms