When she moved to Seremban from Subang Jaya, Selangor, with her husband and daughter eight years ago, Shirley Selvaraj-Dass was uprooted from her social circle. Moving to a new state meant having to make new friends. It wasn’t easy.
“I joined a gym and took part in Zumba classes where I met many people who were friendly enough but for some reason, there wasn’t anyone that I got close to.
“I found that I wasn’t interacting or socialising as much as I used to when I was in the Klang Valley, where I had great friends who I met up with regularly,” recalls Shirley, 46, a homemaker.
As her routine revolved around her daughter’s school and co-curricular activities, it wasn’t surprising that the friends she did end up making were, largely, other mothers.
“I became friends with MK (Malinder Kaur Randhawa) because our daughters were in the same class. We got closer when we had to accompany our girls to their competitions and other activities. I found out that one of her interests was hiking. I asked to tag along on one of her hikes and I immediately got hooked. I found hiking so rejuvenating. That was three years ago,” shares Shirley.
The two began to hike together regularly and as word about their outings got around, more mothers joined the duo on their hikes.
“MK is our ‘sifu’ as she knows all the trails at Bukit Kepayang, a hill near where we all live. She also ensures we get the best workout, taking all our different fitness levels into consideration,” explains Shirley.
Through hiking, Shirley found her tribe in Siti Fairuz Abdul Kudus, 54 (or Tina as she is fondly known), Roslinda Abdullah, 46 (Rose), Norfazliyana Mahat, 38 (Yana) and Saripah Bujang (Ateh), 52 and MK, 43.
Though they barely knew each other when they began hiking, the six women found themselves having fun whenever they met.
“We had instant chemistry,” says Rose. “We share a common goal to stay healthy. But we also share other interests and most importantly, we have fun together. We seem to be making bigger and bolder plans now and I really look forward to the adventures that will be coming our way.”
Their meetings now extend beyond the trails they explore. They meet for picnics, lunches, grocery runs and themed parties too. And they have a new member – new mum Angel who is eager to start hiking with them.
“Sometimes we only meet on hiking days. At other times, we meet every day, just eating and chatting. Not on weekends though as we have our commitments to our own families,” explains Shirley.
Not too long ago, the ladies decided that it’d be fun to come up with a name for their group. Ideas were thrown about until they unanimously agreed on a name: “Heels on Hills”.
The name, the women explain, describes the group perfectly – mothers who love dressing up (and wearing heels) who came together through a mutual interest in hiking.
“We don’t just share a common interest for hiking anymore. As we became closer, I realised that I started to share everything that goes on in my life with these women. What I was cooking for the day, my daily routine and even fashion advice,” adds MK.
They also got matching t-shirts which they wear on their hikes. The tees are for uniformity, Shirley explains, adding that they also “made for fabulous photos”.
“When we first started hiking together, I thought that these women were really strange for taking so many photos, not just selfies.
“Every other step of the way while hiking, I was asked to strike a pose. Eventually I got used to it even if I’m still the worst at posing for photos. The other ladies constantly make fun of me for that.
“I am also one of the quietest when we get together because I am quite a private person. But, I’ve come to notice that no one judges me for it and they still include me in everything they do,” shares Shirley.
Tina laughs as she recalls Shirley’s initial reticence at having her photo taken.
“In the beginning, I noticed that Shirley might not have been too happy about me stopping to take photos so much. But she’s gotten used to it and I think she even likes it now,” she says. “Our photos show just how much fun we have and even though I’m the oldest in the group, I feel young being with them.”
For Yana, the respect and acceptance the women have for each other is something she values the most.
“I love this group,” she enthuses. “I really do. I love how everyone is so positive and encouraging all the time which is rare, I think, in a group where we are all so different. We come from different backgrounds and cultures but we respect each other. This is what makes this friendship work,” says Yana.
Shirley agrees wholeheartedly.
“Hanging out with this group makes me very happy. Not only do I have a great time hiking, but we have a lot of fun. And there’s a lot of laughter.
“Although we come from diverse backgrounds, practise different religions and have differing opinions, it only makes the friendships more beautiful,” shares Shirley.