(Featured in Masala Lite January 2013, Thailand)
[To view the original article click on the link below]
We investigate share groups, the Y2K version of the auntie kitty party, and find out it’s still a whole lot of fun with a bit
of cash on hand. By Reena Karim
The term kitty party makes young people cringe. We usually picture old aunties, draped in silk saris, gossiping and eating samosas. You may even imagine a round of tash at Mrs. Gupta’s newly renovated living room, where her cronies discuss Romila’s backless choli. But today’s kitty, now often called a share group, features younger and professionally diverse sets of singles, couples, and even men. And because it’s the new year, and share groups supposedly help you save money, we decided to take a look at kitties. We spoke to several members about why they like being part of share groups, why they don’t, and what they do with their winnings. Note that no real names have been used.
Unity or Diversity
Most of our respondents stressed the importance of the actual meet-up part of the share group. Self-employed event planner Neetu says that her busy schedule keeps her from meeting her friends, and a kitty is a great way to hang out, catch up, and also get the inside story on others. Veena, a teacher by profession, adds that it’s a way to get away from families and kids and a have a girls’ night of sorts. There are emotional benefits, too. Anchal, a freelance teacher, has been in a share for many years and has grown close to many of the members. “We share our personal problems and feelings,” she says.
But joining a share group can be more than just catching up with friends you already have. Jess says, “It’s a great way to meet people with the same likes and dislikes.” Marketing professional Sonal says that her share group of 16 members has a wide mix of industry professionals, including a counsellor, a teacher, and an online analyst. One is even in the stock market. Although many of these ladies were not best friends in the beginning, they have gotten closer to each other, even being part of each other’s weddings. “We just got to know each other better and learn a lot from one another,” Sonal explains. “It’s a great way to socialise. It gives us a sense of belonging.”
A Share in Every Share
When forming a kitty or share group, the most important question, of course, is who to invite and how many. Anchal’s share group began when she returned from university a few years ago. “We needed to find a way to be in touch, since we tend to go our separate ways once we move back from university. So we decided to start a share group with the 10 girls who went to the same uni.”
However, if you have different circles of friends, then you may want to consider being a part of more than one kitty. Veena says, “I belong to one group that is comprised of my friends and the other of my cousins.” Neetu’s group consists of people from her age group, while the other is in fact her older sister’s group. “You have two very different sets of people,” she says. “There is my college share group who are easy going people with no drama. Then there is my cousin’s group, slightly older with many who are married. So it’s great to hang out with them because they bring different sets of knowledge and also because they have some crazy themed parties and it’s a blast.” Clearly, if you can afford the contributions, paying to be in multiple groups may be fun.
Of course, balancing different kinds of people isn’t always easy, and share groups work best if everyone gets along. Despite being a light hearted sorority, when it comes to choosing members and inducting new ones the ladies are very finicky. Jess, who is a homemaker, proudly says, “We are a closed group and are quite picky regarding a new member. We all take each other’s opinion before letting them in.” Veena is more lenient, “We just start a new one if people want to join.”
Kab aur Kahan
After a group has been formed and the members chosen, almost immediately a gathering is planned. In case you are wondering how such a large group gets a shin-dig together, well now you don’t have to. Veena has her kitty members consolidated in one group on her phone. This way they can post messages and suggest the location of their next meet. “You write a time and a venue, and people just show up.” Note that many restaurants offer special deals to kitty-ing groups, so do ask when making a reservation.
Veena’s share group of working mothers prefers meeting on weekdays, because weekends are spent with families. Her kitty meets at night usually around 8pm at one of the member’s home, after the kids have been put to bed. Once the ladies gather it becomes a hangout session of sharing tales. Sometimes serious topics like art and culture also makes its way in. Jess adds, “After a hearty meal of lunch or dinner, we occasionally play some games like tash, and if someone is into charity work they would inform us and we collect money to contribute towards it.”
But Neetu says that a meet is not only restricted to a lunch or dinner. In her group for example, she says, “We start with dinner, then go for drinks, and then even out on the town.”
Sharing Means Caring
Hanging out, gossiping, and sharing stories may be one aspect of share groups, but one of the biggest draws is the money. Although many were quick to add that it certainly did not surpass the importance chumming with buddies, money does act as glue for commitment. Veena says that in her kitty of 12 members, everyone contributes B3,000 a month to the pool. Then at the end of the month a chit is drawn from a hat to determine who will get the amount. Working mothers and college friends tend to keep it under B5,000. Older women who are part of a couples share raise the stakes and sometimes go up to B10,000. The amount depends entirely on the people of a group. “In the ones I am involved in we play for B2,500 and B5,000 in another,” Neetu says.
Exceptions to the process can be made if someone urgently requires the funds for a personal need such as an upcoming vacation or, as in the case of Sonal, a friend’s upcoming wedding. In lenient groups, people may come together and agree to give that person the month’s share.
A Hole in Your Pocket?
So what does one do with a lump sum of cash? Many of them save it and put it aside, while the others use it to pay for their share in the coming months. Neetu and Jess usually put the money away for bigger expenses and emergencies. Anchal adds that she saves her share in the bank for future use. Many people also use the money for social work. Last year, Veena’s group used a part of the share to buy toys, food, and gifts for the children of Pakkret orphanage.
It’s not all responsible savings and civic service, however. Jess adds, “When we were younger, we would go to Dream World or the beach for a day. Now we try to save it for a girls’ trip out of Bangkok. [The amount] may not be much, but it can cover for the hotel and sometimes the tickets.”
A Girls’ Club No More
Share groups tend to be women-centric, but of late the boys want in too, and sometimes in a mixed group. Textile businessman Inder is a part of a family share group that consist of both men and women. He is dismissive of the fact that shares are labelled as a girl’s thing. He says it is no longer a housewife kind of Monopoly. His group, with 13 members, do dinner and drinks on a Friday or Saturday. He stresses that a share is “just an excuse to catch up. and the money is just part of the game, to make sure everyone is committed and shows up.”
Start your own share group
GOALS Decide what you want to get out of it. A monthly party? Real savings? Meeting new people? This will determine who you invite and what amount you set.
INVITATIONS Carefully select who you will invite to join your group. Many groups have twelve members, so the cycle concludes in exactly one year, but you might want to invite more and assume that not everyone will accept. Depending on your goals, choose people whom you know well, don’t know at all, are responsible, are a good time, et cetera.
RULES Because different personalities are involved and friendships are at stake, decide together what the rules and penalties will be. Not everyone, for example, will be able to make it to each gather. Will they still have to pay? What if they are chosen, but are not present? What if someone shows up, but forgets to bring the cash?
GATHERINGS Get everyone’s input on what kinds of gatherings appeal to them.Quiet dinners at someone’s house? A Saturday of golf? Drinks on Thonglor? You should have some sense of this when you send out your invitations. The more thoughtfully chosen your gatherings are, the likelier it is that you’ll keep the momentum going and retain members.
UN-SHARE, One person explains why she left her share group
“I’ve never really fit in with other Indian girls in my “society,” but as I got older I realised we’d all changed quite a bit, and I actually enjoyed being around some of the women I had grown up with. So when I was asked to join their share, I thought it would be fun. The money has never been an issue for me, as you do get it back. (Except for the thousands you spend on the food/drinks.) Unfortunately I’m still the girl that doesn’t like to shop or party or care much about Bollywood actors, gossip, or unwanted body hair. I never knew what to say during our monthly dinners. Then I became pregnant and still everyone wanted to go to clubs at 10 pm, when I couldn’t drink and was exhausted all the time, and I realised that we weren’t actually friends. I was tired of feeling left out, so I quit once we’d all had our turns.”