City Life – Raving 'n' Ranting in Gay Delhi
Friday night in an über-fashionable club.
[the author, wishing to remain anonymous, describes himself as “an amateur clubber of some experience”; picture for representational purpose is by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The views expressed are of the author’s alone.
Delhi is a city that never, in my opinion, fails to live up to its image in the international eye. A city that, for all those who care to talk of it at all is always mysterious and unfailingly disappointing in all that it promises. This was borne out yet again at an über-fashionable club that I went to.
Now, notwithstanding my suspicions on the quality of experience that gay Delhi can offer an immigrant, I was quite enthralled to read online of the launch of a club night at a supposedly extremely high-society nightclub cum restaurant here. To make it sound all the more plausible as an evening of genuine pleasure, the organizers were from Bombay (the norm is that anything from other than a Delhi farmhouse deserves credibility), and the DJ had played at the Love Parade in Berlin the year before.
Perfect, thought I, for the only other concern, about the riffraff from across the river or the suburbs, say, would also not be allowed in, for the entrance charge alone would serve as a deterrent. I had envisaged something like a rave, except one wouldn’t call it that, for the naff connotation.
As always, one was in for the surprise of a lifetime.
I, with my knowledgeable friend, walked to the club door, to be encountered by a Sikh man, bulging with ghee biceps, who, we presumed, was the bouncer. We dutifully paid our £12 per head (!) entrance charge and wished him a pleasant evening in response to his “Welcome Sir” during the stamping-thy-wrist ceremony.
We entered, and were taken aback by the stark nakedness of the club. As if to compensate for the high rent hence minimal space, the ceiling was three floors high (two and a half? Must check with the DDA). There was a stationary strobe framed in a red plate glass rectangle, suspended from the roof, alongside a red plate glass mammoth butterfly. The walls here are white, another deliberate attempt at making the place look bigger than it is, and there are candles in niches along these walls.
These were being lit when we walked in, clearly as an afterthought, for it was well after the advertised time for the party to begin. The music at this time was decidedly ambient lounge, and with only about six other people inside, we chose a bar seat to be at. I want to say here that the bar was stocked with syrup in all colours of the rainbow, and then some – whether it was in celebration of the gay evening or shamefully obvious proof of their under stocked existence is a moot point.
The coupons they’d given us at the door were good, as it turned out, to get a free drink. A Smirnoff with Red Bull (God forgive me for using brand names here) could be just about ordered for all they were good for. Only they used a cheap substitute for the RB – import duty on it is too high, a well-tipped bartender later let me in on – and the S could not be detected in these drinks by the simple means of drinking them. As always, getting drunk here took some imagination.
As it happened, the crème de la crème aren’t expected to object to undetectable vodka at any cost in this city (This absolves 1911, a favourite haunt of mine, least for the genuineness of its martinis, of any guilt).
The bar staff wore decent black polo neck shirts with the butterfly club logo on them. For a gay night they could’ve pulled off being in tank tops or something though, especially considering virtually all of them had somehow received their shirts in sizes so big their white everyday vests peeped through next to the collars. The natives, of course, made nothing of this, being used to this sort of shabbiness in ‘servants’, which makes their own Zara-type clothing appear that much superior.
Normally called the ‘gentry’, the crowd that eventually gathered at the club was remarkable only in its sartorial staidness. Racially diverse, because we have a generous smattering of diplomats (polite speak for embassy clerks paid in euros) here, the only things deserving any attention of the gay man’s eye were three designers. I mean the 48-trying-desperately-to-look-24 designers themselves, not their clothes.
It’s true I didn’t check if the jeans on any of the collected butts were H&M or Armani, but then that’s the butts’ uninviting nature, no lack of curiosity on my part. Other than that, I do not think, as an earner of bread from designing couture, that a white button me down shirt is club wear.
The high point of the low character of the attendees came when a man elbowed his way to the bar counter, right next to me, proceeding to pull the ashtray I was using well away. Now this, in anywhere even half as civilized as any land once ruled by Englishmen, is a thuggish way to behave. Fortunately, a cold stare prompted him to move it back half way between him and me.
I also noticed a well-above-average presence of the lesbian population, perhaps because they’re cleverer at figuring out when and where they’d be least at risk of molestation in this, our lovely boob-teasing Capital of the rapacious straight males.
Okay, there were only two power cuts, when the whole club went black, but this was taken by most as an intentional grope moment both times, before the backup came on.
The men’s loo, as usual, was a hot spot, not of the kinky variety but of innocent feeble-wristed gossip about hairstyles and low thongs.
The ice cubes with which the urinals were piled (a concept well learnt from South-East Asian lands) melted down with some angst at the accumulating piss, but were not replenished throughout the evening (an obviously unnecessary detail not learnt).
Now for the least important part of an evening promoted with all the force of humanity as an up-to-any-international-standard music and dance club night. Their website had promised the following:
We’re tired to death of LGBT places wanting in good modern music.
This is a serious attempt at providing those very evenings in India, which, going by our vast experience, are so easily had in London, San Francisco, even Bangkok.
We are going to play drum & bass, techno, house, underground music.
Our DJ played at the Love Parade in Berlin last year, and is super cool.
We know what’s in around the world, so don’t worry about our Moscow-nightclub type charges (though clearly, we don’t even have to shell out on getting any snow shoveled from the doorstep).
Now, here’s what they played:
At 11 pm, instrumental lounge music, the type played by Air India.
At midnight,the following tracks:
a)Please don’t stop the music.
b)We are family – I got all my sisters with me.
c)I’m gonna send you to outer space, to find another race – don’t ask, it’s Prodigy’s only mistake ever. Or perhaps The Chemical Brothers’. This track is so bad I can’t be bothered to google it.
d)It’s my life – I swear I am not lying.
At 1 am,
a)Please don’t stop the music – again.
b)We are family – again.
(a trifle louder that made their output system go bmmmm)
c)That’s the way, I like it.
d)Not even any Amy Winehouse.
e)Nothing that could remotely pass off as drum & bass, techno, house or underground.
The 500 or so people collected there by this time were experiencing some sort of a musical epiphany – as if this was the best time they’d ever had in their lives. Perhaps it’s true they still do E at Delhi nightclubs, or maybe anyone with this kind of a Friday night expenditure budget is simply so old that retro pop summons happy memories for them. I left at this point, leaving the Delhi queens rocking, but I am inclined to believe the dawn witnessed them sashaying to Summer of ’69.