Tears flow for former ship mates
IT’S a tale that involves three countries, one epic boat ride, two best friends and one teary reunion.
After 30 years, Townsville resident Stephanie Schonfeld has been reunited with ‘skinny little thing’ Jaswanti Dheda, whom she met on a ship on her way to Australia.
Jaswanti and her family arrived in Townsville yesterday morning for the first time to spend Christmas with Mrs Schonfeld.
Both women were forced to leave South Africa many years ago under sad circumstances.
For Mrs Schonfeld, it was fear.
In 1976, apartheid still reigned in South Africa and her husband-to-be, a German penpal, just happened to be white — a situation the government at the time would not have tolerated if he had joined her in South Africa.
So she fled to Australia to marry him and live in a more neutral territory.
Her cabin mates were young party girls — a lifestyle which did not appeal to Mrs Schonfeld.
But when she laid eyes on Jaswanti she knew they were destined to be friends.
The girls shared many adventures on the ship and in Australia when it docked at Fremantle.
However, when the ship arrived in Melbourne, the pair had to say goodbye as Mrs Schonfeld disembarked while Jaswanti continued on to New Zealand.
And it has taken 30 years for them to meet again.
‘‘I’m so overjoyed to see my best friend again,’’ Mrs Schonfeld said.
The friendship has stood the test of time, with both women continuing to stay in contact via email, phone and mail.
Like so many visitors to the north, Jaswanti has decided she hates the rain and gloom of her home town in New Zealand and wants to live in Australia where the weather is more like her home land of India.
Her oldest daughter is ready for work — and Jaswanti feels she will have more opportunity here.
‘‘I don’t like the weather in New Zealand and it is so very difficult to get a job down there,’’ Jaswanti said. But work can wait. Yesterday the pair were all giggles and cuddles, kisses and tears.
‘‘I can’t describe it to you, I’m so happy, I never thought I’d see her again,’’ Jaswanti said.
BEST FRIENDS . . . Stephanie Schonfeld and Jaswanti Dheda yesterdayPhoto: