Rant – Leave Delhi's Gay Bars Alone
A response to The Delhi Walla’s article on Peg N Pints.
[By Priya Sen; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
I chanced upon Mayank Austen Soofi’s piece on Pegs N Pints, “Thank God It’s Tuesday – Report From a New Delhi Gay Bar“, and had to read it.
Pegs N Pints is a place close to my heart. I love it, I hate it, I want them to change their music, I laugh at its location in Lutyens’ Delhi, and I’m delighted that it shares a compound with a wedding venue (You should go see the queens and aunties flaunting their stuff.)
It’s a dive for god’s sake. Who cares about the scratched wooden counter and the chipped beer glasses! It’s too dark anyway – not unlike every other (gay/straight/mixed) club I’ve been to in many places in the world. And making that the setting for the sleaze Soofi so astutely observed seems a bit unimaginative.
And yet I’m none of those people Soofi happened to observe on the (one?) night he was there. Because I’m a girl! And not straight. And I go there very often. And I wish to be included in the smokiness and cruisiness and nymphiness.
But that isn’t why I’m writing this.
I’m writing this because I don’t think Mayank understand why a place like Pegs N Pints is important. And fragile, and precious, and vulnerable.
I looked and looked for a moment of irony in his piece – something to indicate that he were more than just convinced by the tone of his own piece (I can relate to getting carried away by ones own dramaturgy.. it’s deeply satisfying to be able to get the mise-en-scene right!), and not loathed to identifying with any of those splendid human beings he described. (Was Mayank standing on the balcony?)
But sadly I found none. All I saw – and saw, partly because of his talent for description and partly because I can see PNP with my eyes closed – was a disturbing, semi-disclosed, shadowy, murky image of a place reeking of misplaced desire and overflowing with oversexed, depraved, and perhaps murderous homosexuals.
The last thing we need is to conjure up an image that looks alarmingly like the one that live in the heads of those who feel that homosexuals are basically criminal types and that homosexuality should remain illegal in India.
The only line that made me sense Mayank for a moment, as a boy amongst other boys on the dance floor, maybe even enjoying the pulsating and gyrating and jiggling, was – “He seemed unattainable”.
It takes a lot of work and an unfathomable amount of time for people to even start to think of suspending judgement and for a space like this to come into being. It takes no time for it to be undone. Just think of how little it will take for PNP to be forever closed.
I appreciate the tension and drama that Mayank managed to communicate, and the recognizable edge that many queer people find themselves at – especially in public places, whatever the parameters of public might be – that he has alluded to in his piece.
I was into the desire bit too, but somehow it was set up for me in a way that made me seek salvation anywhere else but at PNP. And I didn’t understand that. It was confusing. And PNP is never confusing. It is what it is. And it isn’t what you say it is.
And the Cloak of Sleaze that Mayank has so generously adorned the happy/happy-sad PNP goers with, somehow doesn’t fit everyone right. I think sleaze is definitely worth reclaiming, but I worry that if I do, it will undoubtedly have to change itself for me. And I am uncomfortable about doing that.
But that’s another discussion.
Meanwhile, I think Mayank should definitely do a follow-up night out there. This time he must go on a Friday night. When it’s straight. I would love to read what he will have to write about that.
[A longer version of this piece was originally published here]