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All week, you’ve been looking forward to tonight, but there’s a minor problem: you have no idea where you’ll be going or who you’ll meet. All you do have is the promise that you’ll be spending several hours in the company of fun, hip, single people— and the faint, tantalizing possibility of finding love. Suddenly, an email pops up in your inbox, and the details emerge.
Savour the anticipation, dear reader: it’s the best part.
Inspired by New York speakeasies and Brooklyn warehouse parties, the brand-new Aphrodite Singles Club has plenty of people in Mumbai swiping right. It’s main appeal? That it does away with the dreary modern-day dating machinery: no apps, website, winks, pokes, or prods. Like a vintage jacket, it’s cool because it feels like a throwback to a bygone era. And that is precisely how co-founder Nitya Arora, intends it to be. “Restoring love in times of the internet,” her tag-line reads.
Aphrodite was conceived while Arora, who is also the creator of jewelry label Valliyan, was still in a relationship, commiserating with single friends who complained about the same thing: how hard it is to date in the city. And when she became single herself, she experienced the challenges first-hand—seeing the same people over and over again on Tinder and Hinge, receiving creepy online messages, having long, flirty conversations with men who turned out to be taken.

“There are enough platforms for hookups, but who is offering love?”

And so, as an antidote to what she describes as the cold, sterile world of online dating, she launched Aphrodite, alongside her partners Shaan Khanna and Hanna Stromgren. “I want people to find love, and I’m not afraid to say it,” Nitya tells us, defiant of how cheesy it might sound. “There are enough platforms for hookups, but who is offering that?”
As it turns out, there are lots of people looking for love, and have found the Internet to be a hopeless place. Aphrodite’s first event, held at Cafe Zoe in August, was intended for twenty-five guests and quickly ballooned to one hundred, almost entirely by word-of-mouth. At the start of the evening, attendees kept to themselves, but after a few drinks, the crowd began to mingle, and included a celebrity chef, a movie star, a comedian. It was a good reminder that dating can be hard for anyone.
Although Aphrodite is open to different types of people, the idea is to create tailored experiences based on who is attending. In the future, a date night might be geared towards people in their 20s, another for an older group; events could be dedicated to people in the LGBT community; people who enjoy karaoke; or hikers (count us out of that one). When asked about the criteria for selecting guests, Arora mentions having a certain je ne sais quoi, a blend of traits that includes open-mindedness, a coolness factor, and being someone “we’d want to hang out with.”
One attendee of the August event described the night as a lot of fun, and the crowd as “curated” with people who had similar professions and interests. When asked if she would return, the reply was quick: “Absolutely!”
If you’re interested, email Nitya and her merry match-makers your photograph, city of residence, age, and a quick line about yourself. But know that you’re trying to join something a tad exclusive, a bit hush-hush, a group that Nitya says is “playing hard to get.”
Because after all, what’s romance without a little chase?

Getting there: Email, Rs 1K-10K (depending on the event), next event in mid-October

This story was contributed by Namrata Kolachalam, a freelance writer based in Mumbai.

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