”˜Golden Girls’ Kitty that has lasted a friendship of a lifetime

By Neena Badhwar

Imagine twelve women who strike a friendship for as long as twenty five years, staying loyal to each other, something that started when they arrived in Australia after marrying their partners, they have kept up with each other, in between having kids, raising them, running families, some in extended homes, and on top working in their respective jobs to help their partners to help settle in a new country. It was not easy.

Yes a Kitty group of twelve which TIDU covered its inception so many years ago when these ladies were young mothers in the hey day of their youth. Some arriving as young brides, others a little later but mainly most of them struck friendship, in their adopted land, which has lasted a lifetime.

A couple left here and there, having moved overseas, yet have kept in touch and whenever they have dropped back in, fondly accepted and invited back into the group, even if for a couple of monthly meets.

Kitty group tradition started in India when women in the neighbourhood would meet up, enjoy each other’s company, play cards, gossip and also pool in some money the practice was referred to as ”˜Kitty’, as it helped them to save some money on the side for their personal use, without the family knowing. At the same time ladies had a day to themselves when they could spend some light moments with each other.

I remember my mum was a part of one. Members of the group would take out the name by throwing in the ”˜parchis’ with names written and get someone in the family to pick one. It was a lottery for the one who won that day. Suddenly the winner was twelve times richer, could be more if the number of members enrolled were more in number.

Fast forward to Sydney, it was Asha Mehta who suggested to Gita Malik, “Why not start a kitty group.” Thus formed Sydney’s own little kitty group consisting of –   Kanwal Gujral, Gita Malik, Kalpana Tolani, Asha Mehta, Poonam Bhandari, Levina Tolani, Bharti Gidwani, Santosh Sharma, Neeru Sharma, Pinky Chawla, Jagjeet Kaur, Veena Khurana and Rekha Dave.

“It was mainly with a motive to meet, forge friendships as we were all new to the country and needed friends. We had left a full life back home of extended families, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents and most important of all, friends. Our husbands who had either moved here due to economic reasons or for jobs,” says Gita who is one of the founders.

Gita Malik and Bharti Gidwani, as young brides when they arrived in Australia

She smiles, as she reminisces, “When I came I used to watch ”˜Golden Girls’ series. So we called ourselves the ”˜Golden Girls’. Later we changed it to ”˜Sunehri Sahelian’.”

“Neither name stayed but we have such good golden memories of time together all these years as we have aged.”

“To start with many agreed to the idea yet some needed coaxing but I must say it has been worth it. A once-in-a-month day we all eagerly look forward to.”

Earlier the group started from homes where ladies used to organise the day with food prepared at home or catered. “Then someone suggested why not explore Sydney and all its impressive eateries and restaurants. So we upgraded and went by suggestions made by members recommending a place they had tried. We have enjoyed eating at Aria, Level 41, Glass braizzaire, Bodhi and Kanwal and Manjit’s   ”˜Manjit’s at the Wharf’ is one of best Indian food. Manjit’s son Varun, a qualified chef, has taken over and serves and spoils us with such good dishes.”

And here only we meet for a chit chat in Barrangaroo overlooking the harbour, it’s a beautiful day as Varun keeps sending in array of dishes for us all to try ”“ Crab meat Uttupam, Tilly Prawns served with chopped red hot chillies, Spiced up stuffed Mushrooms with truffle, ladies chat, “Remember all the weird and wonderful things we’ve done.”

Chips in another, “Once we kitty members all dressed up in our finest glory of heavy saris and jewellery to act as extras in a party scene for a Bollywood movie ”˜Soldier’ that was being shot in Sydney. We had whale of a time walking around at a garden party with pretend food and weak tea as champagne. It’s another matter when we actually got real food served by Manjit, of course, along with all the cast and crew. We were famished after having spent a day in the scorching sun in the company of Bobby and Preity Zinta, the main stars in the film.”

Says Bharti, “And what about that trip to Hunter valley. Kanwal proved to be a rock as she came in with a load full of prepared food for us all. We visited wineries and almost got drunk as we tasted so many different wines. It was one of our best outing that we had together as a group.”

One can see a lot of love and bond between them all. They have stood with each other through thick and thin, children growing up, their weddings, celebrated anniversaries, birthdays and have shared a life with its ups and its downs.

Says Poonam Bhandari, about the group, “It mean a world to me. It’s the sisterhood we have developed”¦”

Adds Kanwal, “Although we do pitch in each for the Kitty, which is handy when one wins, money is not the issue though it can be handy, it is the excitement of meeting, catching up, planning our next meet, discussing what to wear, where to go. All the Bollywood gossip, fashion, who is doing what, travelling, we simply enjoy this special day that we are able to set aside just for ourselves.”

As we part after spending few hours with the ”˜golden girls’ with many golden memories that they have collected to fall back on for years to come, Pinky Chawla on the day is with a big smile on her face. Not only has she enjoyed a day with her friends, she is going back with, in her pocket, twelve times of the amount she contributed into the kitty on the day. Perhaps to spend on that dress or a shoe, she plans to buy, or set aside as saving that she can use for some useful purpose, when in need. It’s a good Kitty that has created a life long friendship and support among its members for more than 25 years!






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