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Kith and Kin - Lasting Impressions

Kith and Kin - Lasting Impressions

Issue 81 June 2011

When Fareena hired Deb, neither predicted a 30 year friendship. 


Deb -


Fareena hired me my first year out of college. My first impression was that she was brilliant at her job, and anything else she put her mind to. As I was hired as an intern, Fareena became my mentor and I began to really look up to her. She was the first person to treat me as a professional in the working world.

We began to socialise outside of work and me and my partner would spend time with Fareena and her husband. Her husband was actually quite intimidating, just like Fareena had seemed to me upon our initial meeting; he was very academically gifted, and I would immediately feel very young and a bit ignorant in his presence.

We worked together for a year, after which I moved to San Francisco to attend law school. We still kept in touch over the phone and through letters. It was at this time that Fareena became pregnant, and asked if I’d be godmother to her daughter, Najla. I was so moved and honoured when she asked me, and I of course accepted immediately.

When Fareena’s husband was tragically killed, I did my best to support her during the difficult time. She went to Pakistan to make the arrangements for her husband, and on her return, told me that I’d need to play a bigger part in Najla’s life. From then on, I would go and stay with them both a lot more often. When I would visit, Najla would come along and say “But Deborah Aunty is MY friend!”

I really admire Fareena’s tremendous internal fortitude, and her unfaltering commitment to her family. She’s also a person of very deep faith, which is something I find inspiring.

After I got married and my husband and I were trying to make the decision to adopt, Fareena was very supportive in helping me make the right choice. We decided to adopt a baby from China and before me and my husband left, Fareena and her family gave us a bag full of supplies for the baby. One item was a ‘Hello Kitty’ plush toy, and I took it with me when we went to pick up my daughter from the orphanage. When she was given to me, she already had a toy with her from her foster family, but she dropped that and grabbed the ‘Hello Kitty’ toy. She kept it with her and it didn’t leave her side for eight years. The very fact that Fareena had chosen the toy for me and my daughter conveys our deep, intrinsic bond.


Fareena -


Deb was a student straight out of college when I hired her in the late 70s. She was very hard-working and I taught her all about the different processes within the company regarding data capture and statistical research. We gelled instantly as colleagues and I was mindful of providing guidance to Deb. Early on, I experienced some problems at the company, which required me to take a firm stance. Deb was particularly surprised to see a woman respond the way I did and I had hoped then that it illustrated to her, as a young woman that her potential was limitless and she could do anything she set her mind to.

Deb grew up in Africa and Europe, so she sees beyond people’s cultural differences and is able to have a strong relationship with anyone. We both have very similar political outlooks, so we’d find ourselves discussing topics that we both felt strongly about.

I imagine people found it quite strange when I decided to name Deb as my daughter’s godmother. As Deb is Jewish and I’m Muslim, there is no concept of ‘godparents’ in either of our religions. But I wanted my daughter to have someone she could relate to and confide in. It had to be someone who she could trust and depend on, and for me, that person had to be Deb. She was a great support to me after the death of my husband, and continued to do so when I chose to remarry.

We’ve both moved around quite a bit during the time that we’ve known each other, but it’s never really felt like she’s been away from me. Sometimes, it can be hard to find time for each other, but coincidently, we both use the time that we are driving to call and catch up!

Deb has been welcomed into my family by everyone. At my niece’s wedding, we had the same clothes made for her that we had for my own sisters. Her daughter was also a flower-girl at my daughter’s wedding.
We’ve been friends for over 30 years now, and I think the secret is being able to see the other person’s point of view. We’ve never stopped speaking to each other over something, as we believe communication is key. Deb has always been there for me, and it’s a very rare thing to have someone you can completely trust by your side.

Deb and Fareena shared their story on:

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