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She barrelled through the crowd wrapped tightly around my shrinking figure, a miniature dynamo of flying blonde curls and righteous indignation - "Leave her alone! What are you staring at?!" The other children withered before the onslaught of that fierce blue gaze, melting away with mysterious rapidity. The two of us were left facing each other; I struggled to comprehend my unexpected salvation, as two dimples flashed endearingly to life on Belinda's smiling face.

The ominous metallic thunderclouds overhead mirrored the unenthusiastic welcome I received at my new school. Refugees from the genocide taking place in East Pakistan, in mid-1971 my mother, brother and I moved to London for safety, my father remaining trapped at home. Unsettled from our sudden departure and the murky tensions of this newly-fragmented family life, I was too disoriented to successfully navigate an unfamiliar school environment; that too, armed with a splintered English vocabulary.

I buckled under the weight of the curious stares from my classmates, and my prayers for rain during our mid-morning break went unanswered. Within a few minutes of my eviction from classroom to playground, I was surrounded by children whose badgering questions I could neither understand nor answer. Until Belinda appeared, I'd been drowning in panic.

Now, she put out her small hand, taking mine in her confident grasp. The concept of rejection never crossed her five-year-old mind. I looked down at those pale fingers contrasting so boldly against my own coffee-shaded skin, and for the first time in forever, I felt safe.

And that's exactly how she kept me for the next nine months, before it was time to return to a new nation emerging from the bloodbath. We were inseparable, everyone saw it. And if they didn't understand what had drawn the supremely confident English girl to the shy soon-to-be Bangladeshi, it didn't matter. That's just how it was.

Kindergartners are pack animals; wolves, when they smell blood. Luckily everyone liked Belinda, so by extension, they tolerated me.

Periodically the teachers separated us "for class discipline", or some other girl made an abortive bid for the position of Belinda's best friend. And inevitably, sometimes we fell out ourselves. But when things got complicated, Belinda and I had a foolproof formula to extricate ourselves from the situation. One of us would look at the other and say "What were we fighting about again? I can't remember…"

It worked every time.

(400 words)


Carri Pence's picture

The innocence of children is

The innocence of children is the most magical thing in the world, where it can touch everyone is such a deep and profound way. I am glad she offered shelter form the cruel world, and all I wonder is if you still are in contact?

Farah Ghuznavi's picture


Thank you for reading this story. It means a lot to me that this story touched you, because I'm no longer in contact with Belinda. I wish I was.

Carri Pence's picture

I hope you will reconnect

I hope you will reconnect with Belinda, though I don't know how. How I see it is that people are in your life to serve a specific purpose and once that purpose is served the person tends to fade away. That is why it is so hard for me to contact my old friends, because I feel as though that our purposes were already fulfilled in that relationship. I don't mean to sound bitter at all and I am still best friends with my kindergarten classmate, but that is how I see many people in my life.

This is such a great story! You are absolutely right, kindergartners smell blood. All kids do. I think we all have a Belinda, or perhaps we have been a Belinda for someone else. One of the most valuable lessons we can learn is to accept others, regardless of our differences. Thank you for sharing!

JaniceW's picture

So heart-warming

You have great writing and storytelling talents! I was drawn in and captivated from the start. Your use of imagery brings such richness to this story and you used your words beautifully to capture the essence of this passionate and strong young girl. Are you still in touch?

This is writing at it's most powerful and effective, and I look forward to reading more of your experiences and the stories you have encountered in your development work. I eagerly await your future posts.

Farah Ghuznavi's picture

Comments appreciated

Janice, Carri and Brianna, I really appreciate you taking the time to read the story and of course, your kind words on my writing.It's great to hear from all of you, and I'm glad that the story spoke to you.

It was such a long time ago that Belinda and I were friends, and yet the memories remain very vivid in my mind's eye. Looking back on it all, she taught me a lot of life lessons without of course being aware that she was doing so. I'm sorry to say that we are not still in contact because I was five when I left Britain, and too young for the question of us being penpals or anything of that nature to have been a viable proposition. It's something I bitterly regret, but much as I would like to know where she is and how she is doing today, at the same time I am still just very grateful to have known her at all.

I have had some stories published in the past, including those related to my development work, and would be happy to send you the website links if you're interested, Janice.

Monika Pant's picture

Nice one, Farah!

Nice one, Farah!

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