Inside India’s elite kitty parties

Our Post Doctorate Fellow, Parul Bhandari, writes about her research in the e-magazine Quartz.

The world of the Indian super-rich is shrouded in mystery, especially the lives of the women married to the country’s business and political elites. There’s much to be gleaned from this overlooked category, including insights into their material and non-material ways.

An unharnessed source of information from that world is their informal social meeting groups—popularly known as the “kitty parties.”

India’s capital, New Delhi, being the country’s power centre, is perhaps unmatched in such rendezvous, at least for a sociologist like me.

Unapologetic indulgence

A kitty party can be as small as 8-10 women or as large as 30-40. These meetings could be over lunch, brunch, dinner or coffee, over a movie or an excursion—once or twice a month. These get-togethers are where information on people, luxury items, and fashion trends is exchanged.

Often these are the spaces where deeply personal matters are discussed too.

Elite kitty parties are arenas to showcase money, power, and privilege, as marked primarily by the participants’ appearances.

Involving closely guarded groups of women from reputed business or political families, members often flaunt expensive diamond jewellery (a different one for each meeting if they can help it) and designer bags (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Channel, Gucci, to name a few brands). Trousers and tops are the preferred attire. I rarely spotted anyone in traditional Indian wear.

The venue is mostly their palatial homes in the tony enclaves of Civil Lines, Golf Links, Vasant Vihar, or grand farmhouses in Chhatarpur or Mehrauli. But they may also meet in plush cafes and restaurants, such as DLF Emporio Mall, Olive Bar and Kitchen in Mehrauli, 5-star restaurants or upcoming spaces in Khan Market.

It is this unapologetic indulgence that primarily differentiates these kitty parties from those of the other, lower, classes.