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Peers and parental influence: The family and social aspect always comes into play in our personal choices.

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At a masquerade ball hosted by A World Alike at an upmarket restaurant in Mehrauli where Sangria flowed like water, I looked around to see a curated set of Delhi’s professional elite, most of them in their 30s —a Supreme Court lawyer, a United Nations consultant, a television journalist, a publishing house editor—swish around the cobblestone courtyard, wine glasses in hands, sizing each other up on the basis of number of years spent abroad.

The way the networks describe their target client more or less makes up the definition of ‘class’ in contemporary India.

Nevertheless, attending the events has restored her faith “in the fact that there are some wonderful people out there—I just haven’t met my wonderful person yet.” The men have a different perspective on the matter.

A 28-year-old lawyer with the Supreme Court who attended A World Alike’s masquerade ball, told me later over the phone that the reason men were hesitant to make the first move in social settings such a bar was because they felt “a lack of invitation.” Things could have been more open on a platform such as the popular dating app Tinder, but in his experience, “girls use it as a game to express whether they like your looks or not, and not as it should be used.

In urban India’s new cultural hierarchy, the top rung is reserved for the global Indian: The foreign-educated, career-oriented, well-read, well-paid, well-travelled and socially savvy men and women who are held up by an increasingly aspirational society as the embodiment of success.

The deeper the idea of money not being able to buy everything sets in urban psyche, the bigger the rise in the social stock of people who had the foresight to cultivate “class.” They are the taste-makers and trendsetters, pursued by gourmet restaurants, adventure travel companies and peddlers of holistic living.

Over the past five years, a dozen gated singles’ networks have sprung up in the big cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune—to serve the social group they refer to as “cultured professionals.” You could be a lawyer, a banker, an entrepreneur, a consultant, an architect, a pilot, a news anchor, a graphic designer, a TED fellow.

It could be any job that broadly came under the purview of cool—engineers are mostly missing from the professions outlined—as long as you could pay anywhere between Rs10,000 and Rs50,000 as annual membership, excluding the considerable cost of attending mixers, and wouldn’t be out of place at a BBQ lunch or wine tasting.

There were some obvious things in common—the way we dress, how we conduct ourselves, the food we eat.” This, of course, is just the first step in a multi-level screening process employed by FNM and similar networks that are more stringent about keeping out those who don’t belong than taking in ones who do.

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