Mumbai girl Malini Agarwal’s weekends are the stuff dreams are made of. Recently , this vivacious 29-year-old and a large group of friends headed out to Kamshet, on the outskirts of Mumbai, and spent the day learning paragliding. On another, they headed out of the city and had a whale of a time trekking in the moonlight on the Western Ghats. On yet another they decided to go watch a stand-up comedian do his act.
Life’s a party: Friday club members let their hair down
Malini and her friends are not a bunch of rich kids having a good time. Instead, they are a group of professionals from diverse backgrounds that include media and entertainment, law, marketing, information technology and medicine, who work hard during the week and are ready to let their hair down by the time the weekend comes around.
What began as a group of friends meeting up regularly, largely because they were new to Mumbai and had no friends in the city, soon expanded with each of them landing up sometimes with a colleague from office or someone they had struck up a friendship with along the way.
“Before I knew it, I was no longer alone in Mumbai and was never at a loose end for want of someone to talk to,” says Malini, one of the city’s best-known radio jockeys.
And that, essentially, is the philosophy behind Friday Club (www.fridayclubworld.com), a 200-member family of people including American, Korean, Chinese, Scottish, German and Swiss nationals, like-minded people who meet, share their experiences and have a good time. “Mumbai is such a big place it is easy to feel lost here. On the other hand, there is no other city in this country where you can meet people from so many different cultures and backgrounds,” says Malini, herself a diplomat’s daughter who grew up in places such as Greece, Ivory Coast, Lebanon and Somalia, and had to make new friends every three years when her father was transferred to a different country as its ambassador.
Anders (22) arrived in India from Denmark seven months ago to work in Mumbai as the team leader for a logistics company. After the first few days of feeling completely lost in a city, thousands of miles away from home, Anders was introduced to Friday Club through a colleague at work and says he has never felt homesick since then.
“As we grow up, we lose the ability to make enduring friendships—the kind that we made as kids in school. I like to think that Friday Club gives us that feeling of being back in school again and getting to make unconditional bonds with people one can trust and depend on and share your good times and bad with,” says Malini. Joining the club has meant different things for many people.
Reshma, a 24-year-old marketing professional, for instance, found her soulmate over the Friday Club Internet group. The strong online friendship eventually took on offline dimensions when they decided to meet at Friday Club events and before they knew it, the couple were in love and got married. “Earlier both of us would arrive at the club events alone. Now we arrive together, leave together and have double the fun,” smiles Reshma.
Like in everything else, there is safety in numbers, as Friday Clubbers know. Single girls in Mumbai find the club just perfect for a good night out on town without being accosted by strangers in clubs and lounges. Plus, there’s the luxury and the security of being dropped off home under a group umbrella, smiles Malini. “But we are not a singles’ club, there are several couples as well. We make sure that only people who someone in the group knows well become part of it ”.
There are also other benefits such as free entry into hip nightclubs or pubs as well as discounts at bars and expensive restaurants. In fact, Friday Club membership cards get the red carpet in places such as the upmarket Taxi & the Woodfire Oven, a popular lounge restaurant in South Mumbai, that has hosted more than half-a-dozen Friday Club events. Whether its evening drinks or the Sunday Brunch, it usually starts off with a little work before special music, the old classic rock kind, is played there by popular demand. Says owner Prashant Chaudhri, “When we know they’re coming, our kitchen is well-stocked with lots of wood-fired pizzas and cheese fondues. The bar overflows with margaritas and caipiroskas. It’s great having them over, they are all such wonderfully different people and many of them are personal friends now!”
The group also gets great discounts on out-of-town trips and experiences most others would give an arm and leg for. They recently spent a weekend at a wine-tasting session at Sula Vineyards in Nashik. “I knew only four people when I went on that trip but I came back knowing two dozen and we meet up regularly,” says Shaan, a former DJ, who now runs an event management company and thinks up cool things for the club to do.
Shaan and others organized a Holi party earlier in the year where the group got together and played with traditional colours, ate traditional delicacies and had a good time together—“The Holi party was the most memorable experience I have had any time in the recent past,”says Anders.
What club members love is the hang-loose attitude that pervades. “There are some of us who chat online during the week but there is absolutely no compulsion to turn up at all events or make telephone calls to be in touch during the week—no one is stressed about having to maintain relationships,” says Sheila Bhosle, a 28-year-retail professional who works 12-14 hours every day, six days a week.
Having on-the-move professionals as members has meant that news of the club has spread across the globe—literally. Members who have moved to other cities have now set up Friday Club branches in Toronto, London, Hong Kong, Bangalore, Pune, New Delhi and Vancouver.
“The Friday Club could be like Lonely Planet. Every city we go to, there will be someone who can guide us on where to eat, find us a place to stay, maybe even give usa shoulder to lean on and some company to have a good time with. Besides, can you think of a better way to network. Where else would you find an investment banker, a lawyer, an actor, a retailer, a dress designer and a would-be diplomat sitting together and laughing over a stand-up comic,” says Malini.
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