Thursday, June 20, 2024

Single and ready to mingle? Here comes ROFL

Mukul Goel, at a trip to Varanasi, with ROFL members 

Mukul Goel, at a trip to Varanasi, with ROFL members 

When 47-year-old Mukul Goel outlines the intent behind and the selection criteria for all-singles networking club ROFL, which he started in Delhi some seven years ago, he is convinced of two things: he is bringing like-minded strangers together and establishing a non-discriminatory space for singles across India. “As a rule, singles aged between 35 and 59 could become group members. People in this age bracket automatically enter a certain economic and social class. We are a selective, friends-of-friends network and allow entry to people only by reference,” says the Delhi-based entrepreneur.

ROFLers at Okhla Bird Sanctuary

ROFLers at Okhla Bird Sanctuary

The group which started with as a small group of friends has now branched out to six other cities, including Mumbai in 2016, Pune in 2018, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad in 2020 and much recently to Chandigarh. The groups, across the country, comprises about 700-900 people. “When I returned to India from the US after 14 years, I landed in Ahmadabad and stayed there for two years before moving in with my parents in Delhi in 2007. My parents were forcing me to marry, but I could not even find like-minded people, leave alone someone to marry. In India, married couples like meeting married people and singles are often left out,” says Mukul.

He tapped into the cultural shift of Delhi’s networking spaces and tried making room for singles. “About 10 years ago, people were not very open to meeting strangers. Even today, that sort of a culture doesn’t exist. But about seven years ago, Delhi’s entertainment venues, pubs, clubs and cultural centres were booming with people who were open-minded and willing to go out, meet people and interact with them,” he says. Through this group, Mukul realised that singles was a big segment, which was isolated from mainstream Indian society especially when it comes to the middle-age population.

Club members go river rafting in Dehradun

Club members go river rafting in Dehradun

The 35-60 age-group of singles, divorced, still looking, people who are not willing to marry but date, make an interesting mix of old and new for Mukul’s movement. The selection depends on the chemistry of the group, but some of the most important prerequisites are that a person should have quality education and a stable profession. “We are flexible. Let’s say, if someone is not earning, but can communicate, they will be welcome to join the group. But let’s say there’s a matric-pass and an unemployed person wanting to join the group, it may get uncomfortable for that person to communicate with a certain type of people. They won’t be able to fit into the culture,” explains Mukul.

The groups are handled by an administrator in each city who organises activities for members. “We just say that the group is for happiness. We don’t specify if it is for dating, but we don’t stop people from dating each other either. The mantra of our events is to do things that you would not otherwise do when you are alone, like going to a fine-dining restaurant, nature trips, hikes, etc.”

Mukul ensures that the group provides a safe, friendly, non-discriminatory environment for all. “We welcome LGBTQ people, who don’t usually become part of hetro groups, but the selection criteria remains the same,” he adds.

Roopam Singh

Roopam Singh

Roopam Singh, a Chandigarh-based educator and admin of the city chapter says, she has been part of some social networking clubs for singles when she lived in Europe. “In Chandigarh, I created two small groups for singles and managed them with friends till ROFL contacted me to launch in Chandigarh. Our group has over 100 members now,” she adds. Apart from cocktails and dinners, they plan to organise weekend getaways, picnics and hopefully intercity events with ROFLers in other cities as well. Meanwhile in Bengaluru, Poonam Aggarwal, who is self-employed, shares, “We started the group in 2019, but it could not survive the pandemic and we’re left with only 20 people in the group.” She says, the group introduced her to someone she completely relates with and has established a beautiful, trusting bond with her. “I met Shilpa through the group and we continued meeting each other and hanging out. In fact, we are planning to revive the group once the number of Covid cases recedes here,” she says.

ROFL in Chandigarh Golf Club

ROFL in Chandigarh Golf Club

In a world where apps offer social rooms for all kinds of communities to meet and interact, ROFL’s WhatsApp, Facebook may seem obsolete, but digitisation is not what they are going for. “There are many groups like this and they are also part of the same ecosystem catering to various target audiences. We are using these digital avenues to further our community. Even during the pandemic, we had Zoom calls and WhatsApp. Also, the age group we have here, most of them are not savvy with apps etc. We are looking at people who have maturity and a certain level of professionalism to connect with each other.”

#Single #ready #mingle #ROFL

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