These Malaysian ladies met 40 years ago and have been friends ever since

Preet (standing, second from right), president of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur, with some of the members during a Nordic walking exercise before the pandemic. Photos: Preet Kaur

From being mothers to grandmothers, Meeta Bhar and Preet Kaur have witnessed each other’s milestones in life, sharing ups and downs along the way.

Born under the same zodiac sign, they share a tight friendship and a love for food, gardening and home decor.

The neighbours in a condominium in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, they enjoy taking walks together or chatting over a cup of chai.

Meeta (right) and Preet have been good friends for nearly 40 years. Photos: Meeta BharMeeta (right) and Preet have been good friends for nearly 40 years. Photos: Meeta Bhar“We share a passion for gardening and as both of us are on ground floor, we are able to have gardens, planting herbs, flowers and other plants.

“It’s therapeutic for both of us,” says Meeta, who is currently in the States visiting her son and his family.

Meeta, 65, and Preet, 75, first met 39 years ago at a club for Sikh ladies called the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur founded by Sukhdev Kaur Bachan Singh.

“I met Preet there and made many new acquaintances which have grown into great friendships over time. Preet and I, however, met more often as we had quite a few things in common,” says Meeta via email.

Since then, they have been fast friends, watching their kids grow up and get married, helping each other with the wedding preparations too.

“We have always kept in touch and our children have known each other from the time our friendship commenced as we used to meet up in each other’s home,” she adds.

Both Aries, the women were also always on the go.

“We both love home decor, so we were always checking out antique shops and such for anything that might fit our homes.

“I love the way Preet tastefully decorates her home. She used to handpaint her plates for wall decor too and I admired these artistic traits in her,” adds Meeta

.A gathering of members of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur held before the pandemic.A gathering of members of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur held before the pandemic.

The ladies also enjoyed baking, cooking and sharing recipes, at times getting together to cook for Diwali.

“It was so much fun having her around. Preet has a good sense of humour and both my children have fond memories of the good times with her. They still keep in touch with her,” shares Meeta, now a grandmother of three.

Both of them also made a trip to Jakarta once to meet a mutual friend.

“We nearly went into business selling Lombok vases then!” remembers Preet.

Adds Meeta: “We enjoyed it thoroughly, as we were busy checking out antique shops, which always takes us to a high especially when we find some unusual items. Being on a trip together also brings you closer as you bond more and strengthen the relationship.”

Some of the members of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur went for a trip to Goa in 2015.Some of the members of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur went for a trip to Goa in 2015.No friendship is without some friction but the ladies have always managed to resolve their issues.

“What’s important is to give each other space, and to think, ponder and realise that our friendship goes beyond disagreements,” shares Preet, who has four grandchildren.

“There have been challenging moments in our relationship but then, as I always say, we go through them even with our own siblings and we resolve them by accepting these hiccups, analysing what could have triggered the problem, amending our ways and being aware of any sensitive issues as we treasure the relationship,” adds Meeta.

“Giving each other space and slowly getting the relationship working again is our way of keeping the momentum going. It is always easy to break a relationship but very difficult to build one, especially as we have shared a lot over the years,” believes Meeta.

These challenges have also give them a chance to learn more about each other, bringing them closer together while respecting each other’s personal space.

“Preet has a very cheery personality and she is dependable, always willing to help others and always full of ideas.

“In some ways, Preet is like a family member and even my mother, when she visits me, always enquires about Preet and wants to meet her. It’s wonderful to have her around,” says Meeta.

Preet describes Meeta as an extrovert with a zest for life.

“I admire that trait in her, which helps me push my boundaries. She is also very dependable and very giving.”

Meeta adds that though they share the same zodiac sign, they differ in many ways.

“I think that’s the best part of it and it makes our relationship more interesting and whatever happens, we always rebound positively.

“None of us is perfect and as such, you cannot expect a perfect friend.

“We all make mistakes but we shouldn’t sacrifice a relationship over a difference.

“If there are issues in a relationship, learn to forgive and forget if possible and move on to the next level with the friendship,” advises Meeta.

Adds Preet: “Good friends are difficult to find. When you find them, like I have, cherish them.”

Friends and members of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur in Bali in 2016.Friends and members of the Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur in Bali in 2016.

Strength of saheli

The Saheli Club of Kuala Lumpur was founded on Nov 28, 1981 by Sukhdev Kaur Bachan Singh, now 86.

The first meeting was held on that day in Sukhdev’s house in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, where 23 ladies turned up.

Sukhdev, a former teacher, decided to set up the club to contribute to charity work and also share their love for food.

“I took my optional retirement at age 45. After moving from Bangsar to Bukit Damansara, the first few months were spent setting up the new house but I was very lonely at this place.

“I missed working and all my Bangsar Baru friends. I lived in Bangsar Baru for five years. Every Friday afternoon, we used to have Sukhmani Sahib prayers at different venues,” shares Sukhdev.

“I then thought of forming a group comprising Sikh ladies who would get involved in charity work and do cooking demonstrations.”

She started by making a list from the (now obsolete) yellow telephone directory.

“It was tough and very time-consuming. I managed to contact quite a number of ladies.They were total strangers to me. I had to coax and persuade them a few times. They even interviewed me at first as they were curious about me too, which was quite understandable,” recalls Sukhdev.

At the first meeting, which included some old friends and new faces from the neighbourhood, the ladies decided to name the club Saheli, which means “friend”.

Their membership soon grew to 28 and they met once a month, after deciding on their club objectives, which include charity work (distributing food and clothes to old folks and children’s homes), organising games for the members’ children, annual dinners, Nordic walking activities, local and overseas trips and outings, and religious scripture reading sessions.

“The Saheli Club is an intimate group of happy, beautiful, graceful friends and very close to my heart,” says Sukhdev.

At present, the club has 22 members, with Preet Kaur as the president.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, they have not been able to meet regularly.

“What kept us going was staying connected via WhatsApp. This year, in order to create some activity, we had virtual sessions like laughter yoga and chair yoga,” says Preet, adding that some of the members’ children also took part in other activities online like singing during Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day.

Besides activities, the club is also a source of assistance and emotional support.

“We share common interests and we can always call on a saheli for help with medical, legal or education matters, or just for a listening ear.

“The pandemic is a time for us to reminisce about the good ol’ memories of our trips and monthly meets.

“Digging into our past has brought us up another level in our 40-year friendship.

“The ability to share our good and bad days, happy and sad times, and to tap on the years of life experiences and knowledge, is priceless,” concludes Preet.

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