SAFEST: South Asians for Each Other’s Spiritual Toning

SAFEST members who attended the April meeting at the Thomas Glazier Senior Center in west Houston. The group coordinator is Bindu Malhotra (center, seated). At the meeting, members exchange their thoughts and ideas on a variety of topics in a friendly discussion.

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: Over time, some of us are susceptible to bouts of loneliness, despondency, and possible depression. Psychological studies have suggested that interaction with a support group has medicinal qualities that may help us
achieve mental wellbeing as well as develop lasting friendships.
One such support group is SAFEST, which meets once a month at the Thomas Glazier Senior Center on Pine Forest Lane in west Houston. The group coordinator is long-time Houston resident Bindu Malhotra. The group interacts with each other online through What’s App.

I had an opportunity to attend the SAFEST meeting for April, which was held last Thursday afternoon. About 12 members attended. Initially, each of us introduced ourselves and talked about our life history, how we immigrated to
the United States, what we did for work, and how we are keeping busy through social and cultural activities. It was interesting to learn that the SAFEST members originate from all parts of India, including Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.

“Everything we do is based upon being responsible for our actions and communications to bring about the best to all our relationships and create a legacy in offering emotional support,” declares the SAFEST mission statement. “We’re a non-religious and non-political group,” emphasized Ms. Malhotra.

At the April meeting, one of the members explained how he worked with a local hospital system to develop a Stroke Center in northwest Houston as a memorial to his wife, who had passed away due to a stroke and had to be transported to a stroke center in the Texas Medical Center. He invited the group to visit the Cypress Stroke Center and see for themselves a seating area, fountain, and garden he helped create through the hospital system.

Another member talked about how he helped a young lady who had just immigrated from India and was in an abusive situation through her husband and in-laws. The in-laws had even filed a criminal complaint and the lady had to endure a whole night in a holding cell with a large number of criminal elements. Our SAFEST member helped
this young lady to secure a job in California, and obtain a green card that was not dependent on her husband’s sponsorship. Jyoti Kulkarni explained the services available through Daya Houston for South Asian families in crisis and victims of domestic violence.

After the friendly discussions, the group participated in a potluck lunch. This was a time for members to express their creative talent in the culinary arts. Among the delicacies the SAFEST members enjoyed
was vada-pav, a speciality of Maharashtra.

A few weeks ago, the SAFEST group had held a memorial session to honor the late Lata Mangeshkar by singing songs made famous by the legendary playback singer. Shrikant and Mangala Sane sang some of the songs. Mangala even wrote a poem in Lata’s memory.

SAFEST member Shrikant Sane with the poster he created to honor Lata Mangeshkar at one of the monthly meetings that was dedicated to remembering the late playback singer through the rendition of her songs.

If you think you or someone someone in your circle of relatives and friends could benefit, consider joining SAFEST by contacting the group via the SAFEST What’s App.