At 8 pm on Friday, a group of 45 people — investors, musicians, journalists, etc — walked into a 2,800 sq ft bungalow in Andheri and settled down on white mattresses scattered across the floor of its spacious verandah.
Some amongst them knew no one else, but everyone had one thing in common — they all loved folk music.
On the programme was a performance by Kaluram Bamaniya, a folk singer from Madhya Pradesh, and his troupe.
This was the second such gathering of the group, which calls itself Food, Friends & Folk Music and was formed by three folk-music lovers in June 2011. Attendees registered via e-mail and paid Rs 500 per head in exchange for an intimate two hours of Kabir songs on love, devotion, and other folk songs from Malwa, MP, followed by a dinner of biryani and soft drinks.
The host, scriptwriter Sanjeev Sharma, says that he is naturally drawn to all things creative. “I was very excited to host an intimate musical evening at my home to promote folk artists,” says Sharma. “And I am glad I did.”
Food, Friends & Folk Music plans to organise one such event every two months, at homes in either Mumbai or Delhi.
Over the past two years, a number of such groups have emerged in metros such as Mumbai and Delhi, taking home entertainment to an entirely new level via open events built around a common hobby or interest — anything from coffee and pancakes to meditation and soul-searching, satsangs, music, food, wine or board games.
These groups hold regular events at private residences, allowing strangers to register via e-mail or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, counting on word of mouth to bring in new members and keep the group dynamic. Organisers vet those who sign up to make sure that those who come are truly interested.
For the attendees, the groups represent a gateway to unique experiences. When journalist Samrat Mukherjee, 31, and his French wife Kate first heard about Food, Friends & Folk Music from a friend, for instance, they immediately signed up for the first concert, held in June 2011 at co-founder Rohit Sharma’s music studio in Malad.
There, 40 folk-music lovers spent the evening listening to Deene Khan sing Rajasthani folk songs such as Nimbuda.
“The auditorium setting is so formal,” says Mukherjee, “Here, strangers got together in an intimate setting, to hear an artist tell a folk story through his music, just like it was meant to be.”
COME ON OVER
One of the first such groups in Mumbai was Turning Tables, a montly underground supper club launched in December 2009 by Kanika Parab, 29, and Mansi Poddar, 30, co-founders of lifestyle website Brown Paper Bag.
Each month, Parab and Poddar invite registrations online, pick a home from among those offered and invite a top city chef to put together a fine-dine meal for 20 carefully selected guests.
Each guest pays about Rs 1,000 and may attend only one such dinner. Still, registrations have risen from 30 in early 2010 to 100 by early 2011 and 150 per event this year.
Sociologists say there are two reasons why the number of such groups is now multiplying — the growing use of social networking websites, which make such groups possible, and the increased isolation of the average urban Indian.
“In an urban setup, there is always loneliness, even in the midst of a crowd,” says sociologist Sarla Bijapurkar of KJ Somaiya College of Arts & Comm-erce. “Those with money and refined tastes are therefore coming together for niche experiences in the home setting, where they can meet new people and yet filter the crowds.” The groups also allow yuppies to expand their entertainment options.
Take coffee connoisseur Sahil Jatana and his wife, Sonika Bhasin, a media professional. Tired of the weekly grind of dinners and drinks, they formed a group called Underground Coffee Society a year ago.
“We meet at our Oshiwara home at least once a week for coffee and conversations,” says Jatana. The free sessions are often followed by dumb charades, word games, swapping of hangover stories, and occasionally a movie.
“In megacities such as Mumbai and Delhi, yuppies, DINK [Double-Income-No-Kids] couples and Indians who have returned after several years abroad are constantly on the prowl for a more refined social life, even if at just a superficial level,” says urban sociologist BV Bhosale, an associate professor at University of Mumbai. “Such groups are also a result of the disintegration of traditional patterns of socialising.”