It was sometime in October 1992. I was in the sixth grade. I was the new kid around; the latest student to have joined class VI-A. Most of the students were not very happy about new kids. There was a reason to it. With my entry, the strength of the class had burgeoned into 51. An average class was only allowed to have thirty students at the most. More new kids meant more chances of the class being spilt. But then, no one could help it. Families were bringing back their children after the American army snuffed out the last blazing oil well. People were more confident in bringing their children to Kuwait now. The schools were beginning to feel alive at last…
A couple of children did offer to be friendly with me, while most of them kept to themselves. I sat on a two-seater bench, with a vacant seat next to me. There was this really huge fellow sitting in front of me, successfully serving as a wall between me and blackboard. The teacher barely knew that I was in the class. I could sit and daydream without much interruption, while she rambled about geography. I was beginning to enjoy this solitude. But that was short-lived.
One day, we had yet another new student in the class. This one was different. And how so! She was the most beautiful eleven-year-old I had ever seen. Thin-lipped and shapely, she had beautiful long brown hair with not a strand out of place. Not a curl astray. It was bundled up into a neat ponytail high on her head. It swayed sideways as she walked to towards where I sat. That’s when I realized that this new girl was going to be my class partner. She sat in a very lady-like manner. I think she even crossed her legs. With her fingertips, she inspected her table for dust. She wrinkled her nose when she found some. And then, she spoke. “Excuse me, do you have a tissue paper?” I nodded affirmation and handed over the article she had asked for. I watched her as she wiped her tabletop. She had traces of henna designs on her palms. Her socks were rolled down. She wore black buckle shoes. I noticed there were bright blue polka dots on her hair clip. Her eyes were hidden behind the fringes that covered her forehead. She brushed them aside periodically. For an eleven-year-old, this girl was indeed quite a lady. By the end of the day, I came to know that she was not a north Indian, as I had suspected. In fact, she was a Pakistani. She lived quite close to where I lived and we could go home walking together. The prospect of being potential friends with her thrilled me. I had begun a diary that evening. It started off with an entry, “Dear Diary, I think I found a friend. Her name is Faiza…”
*There’s more to come.