Farah was going over a party list with her mother. Her school exams were over and Farah wanted to invite her special friends for a get-together.
“Farah, aren't you going to invite Hafsa?” her mother asked, scanning the list.
Farah looked uncomfortable. Hafsa had been her best friend since childhood but now Farah had made some new friends and had no time for the old ones.
“Mother, you know I am now a part of Purple Girls Club and we have rules about people we can be friends with,” she said.
“Really? And what sort of rules are they?” her mother asked.
“Well only very pretty girls can be part of our group. Girls who are cool and wear trendy stuff and Hafsa is so … you know… dark. I can’t be seen around her. It’s bad for my image.”
“Farah, I cannot believe that you base your friendship on a person’s skin color rather than her character and intelligence. I had expected better judgment from you than this nonsense,” her mother retorted angrily.
Farah was silent. In her heart she knew that her mother was right. Sometimes she too felt uncomfortable with her new “ultra-cool” friends but being a part of such exclusive club was a privilege. Everybody envied their good looks and sophisticated manners.
Yet, the purple girls could be rather rude and snobbish at times. They were especially hard on anyone who was plump, dark or short in their school and more than once, Farah had seen the look of hurt in Hafsa's eyes when the members of Purple Girls Club had openly mocked a person who did not come up to their "cool" standards.
As Farah left the kitchen, her father called out from the living room, "Farah, come here for a second.”
Farah went to her father and went pale when she saw the report card in his hands. She knew she had not done well in her exams and had meant to hide the report card when it arrived.
“Farah, what has happened to your grades? You are barely passing in each subject and have failed in Mathematics. You were such a good student and I had such high hopes for you, my girl.”
Farah just hung her head in shame and did not answer. She loved her father very much and hated to see such disappointment in his eyes. The truth was that the activities of Purple Girls Club left her with very little time for studies. The girls got together almost daily for movies, trying on make-up, chatting and making crank calls to random boys. It had seemed like so much fun.
“Farah, it says in this note that you can appear for supplementary papers by the end of this month. If your grades don’t improve by then, I’ll cancel your trip to Spain.”
Farah’s aunt lived in Spain and she had invited her niece to spend the summer vacations with her. Farah had been very excited but she knew her father was right.
She went to her room and opened her copies. Most of her class work was marked in red by the teachers and several of her home assignments were incomplete. Farah felt terrible. How could she have neglected her studies so much?
She called Gina, the leader of Purple Hearts Club.
“Gina, can you lend me your copies. I need them to complete my notes before the exams.”
Gina went into peals of laughter. “Who cares about exams, Farah? There are other ways of passing them, you know?”
Farah replaced the phone quickly. Even in desperation, she knew she could never cheat.
One by one, she called her so-called friends but no one seemed to care or wanted to help.
Farah sat dejected and then made up her mind. She knew only one person would help her. She went downstairs and after informing her mother, went to the house across the street.
Hafsa’s mother opened the door and welcomed her in. Farah had no words to ask for help but Hafsa could not bear to see her friend look so sad. She took Farah to her room and put a stack of copies in her arms.
“If you need any help, just let me know. We can study together till your exams,” she offered.
Farah felt as if a load had been lifted from her shoulders. For the past few weeks, she had been pretending to be someone she was not. Just behaving like a normal, happy girl and laughing with her childhood friend made her very happy. The two girls got down to studying and in no time, Farah made up for her lost work.
Next Monday, as the two friends entered the school together, Gina saw them and called out haughtily.
“Farah, you know our rules. You cannot be friends with those who do not belong to our club.”
“Gina, I have a new rule about friendship and it is that a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Farah replied sweetly as everybody laughed.