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Report From An Indian Gay Bar

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It was close to midnight at Pegs N Pints pub in Chanakyapuri – New Delhi's diplomatic enclave. Illegal acts were being performed close to the maximum security zone of the Indian Prime Minister's residence.

On normal days, Pegs N Pints is "normal" – strictly straight. But on Tuesday evenings as the clock struck ten, queers start trickling out of their closets. Lying husbands relegate pretty wives to dinner alone. Guilty sons fake extra tuition classes. Bored European diplomats exchange grey-colored blazers for black leather jackets. They all gather together in Pegs N Pints – New Delhi's only discotheque offering "gay nights on all Tuesdays."

Camouflaged as private parties hosted by a certain "Mr. David", these unofficial "gay nights" remain dependent on word-of-mouth publicity. Despite requests, no one from the bar management was willing to be quoted. The secrecy is understandable since gay sex is forbidden under the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and is punishable with imprisonment.

A recent The Times of India report on serial killings in Mumbai casually mentioned cops questioning a man sitting at Chowpatty Beach "if he was a homosexual, the latter confessed and was brought to the police station."

Inside the Den

It was an unkempt place. The wooden counter was scratched, the beer glasses chipped, and the restroom out of order. But nobody cared. No one minded the expensive entry charge of 400 rupees (about $10). This is one of the few watering holes for wealthy gays not willing to risk interrogations by cops in shady parks. Beggars could not be choosers.

As the evening progressed, the crowd started filtering in. The dance floor was downstairs and a boy with a teasing smile was girating to Shakira's Hips don't lie. Roving eyes were coming to rest at him. His smooth chest and gelled hair shone in the blinking strobe light. He shook his shoulders, moved his flat belly, waved his arms and flung his feet. He took leaps, invited others, hugged someone, moved on to the next, never staying at one place for more than a moment.

He seemed unattainable.

Queer Queers

The public had come in groups but some were with lovers. Many were alone.

A venerable gentleman made his beer bottle bob up and down in sync with the pulsating beats of music. A young man in a brown corduroy jacket shook his head in pleasant disbelief. A middle-aged person danced with no dance partner. A male nymph, in a corner, jiggled while gulping whiskey. While an awed waiter, picking the used glasses, looked helpless.

After Some Time

Meanwhile sighs, moans and desire had filled the smoky atmosphere upstairs. Boozing men were huddled on a long sofa lined against the wall. Some sat on the laps of others. On the balustrade stood men-uncles staring down on the fancy fairies of the dance floor. Two hours were left for 2 am – the closing time. Beyond it lay a barren week before the thrill of kissing in public could be relived. Every moment was precious and to be lived to the fullest.

Last Dance

Soon the clock tick-tocked to 1 am and the music became louder. Bollywood chartbusters were replayed. More vodka bottles were opened. Kisses became desperate. Dance vigorous, squeezes frantic, embraces hungrier. Foot tapping wasforceful and eye contact more enduring.

Some of the boys, who could only be call-boys, started walking up and down the stairs to offer last-minute deals.

1:30 am: A grasp among the happy people. Cinderella's hour was ending. Lonely looked lonelier while the lovers hugged tightly. Those in groups held hands, forming a circle. Haughty boys, till now too choosy, caught hold of anybody looking decent and still single. Everybody wanted salvation from the bodily desires.

2 am: Doors closed, gate shut. Re-exile into the cold straight world. Car engines shuddered, headlights switched on, making the night fog glow orange. The fantasy had ended. Till next Tuesday.

Epilogue

A kid, leaving the bar, overheard saying on the mobile phone, "Papa, I'm studying at Vaibhav's place. Will be home in half an hour."

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About Mayank Austen Soofi

  • http://elsaelsa.com Elsa

    What a terrific piece of writing. I enjoyed this very much. Best thing I’ve read all week.

  • http://www.gpb-katie.blogspot.com Katie McNeill

    this is a great article. I really enjoyed it.

  • kan

    i dont know why but this article gives me a very bad taste…a feeling as if the author whoever he or she is doesnt realize the plight of people in india with alternative preferences…..its probably just the choice of words……if the author choses to describe a gay party in new delhi, he/she might wanna sound a little less biased against them….

  • jay

    great article! very well written!

  • http://www.indusgay.com Raj

    I read your article with mixed emotions. On one hand there was joy in knowing that gay men finally had a public social forum where they can drink, dance and delight just like their straight cousins. The other part was sadness at the incredibly lonely lives of many of these men especially the older ones who are living alone or in false empty marriages.
    I wish to point out that there are resources in India such as IndusGay.com that can help many lonely gay men (and lesbians) find someone special to fill their lives and hearts.
    thanks

  • Jo

    This just makes me sad. This isn’t how things should be — lying, deception, rundown bars.
    Damn it.

  • Poornimaa

    It is very well written but at the same time I find nuggets of offbeat impressions about gay men. The author has certainly done a good job in his article but his attitude towards homosexuality seems to be pretty primitive.

  • Sakshi

    Clearly well written….respect the perception & the emotion, though wisdom calls for a little more compassion …..oxymoronish but thats how we are !!!

  • shania

    call it primitive, orthodox, uncompassionate,or wateva u choose, but my honest opinion is not xactly conducive to homosexuality..for the simple reason that it is against nature….. people may argue that it is something which is beyond ur control, but the fact remains that it is simply a psychological disease. it is simply a pervert means of venting ur sexual frustration n lust. n if one is ggenuinely interestd in settin him/herself ‘straigt’, he/she shud consult a shrink….it’ll help!!

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Thanks for that report from the Stone Age, Shania.

  • Chris Baker

    Yes didn’t know they have internet in caves shania

  • Nic

    shania thanks for proving that ignorance is alive and well

  • wateva

    if this is what happens in bars…i dont think ill ever go there

  • ankur

    to shania’s comment. before writing so cofidently u shud get ur facts corrected. before labelling homosexuality a psychological disorder, tk sm advice from a psychologist wt recent literature says abt it. it is nt considered a disorder or disease acording to american psychiatric association. nd u cn read some psychiatry book chapter on homosexuality to understand it better.

  • sunil

    a rather pathetic piece of writing. The writer thinks the gay world is bleak and sad and only full of deception and lies. He obviously went with a pre-conceived notion of ‘us-and-them’ and came back none the wiser.

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    The writer thinks the gay world is bleak and sad and only full of deception and lies.

    Actually, the piece could have been written about an NYC gay bar in the pre-Stonewall days. Homosexuality isn’t a psychological disorder – cultures and religions which refuse to accept it as a natural occurrence in the species contribute significantly to the conflict. When a gay person grows up in an environment where the/she is despised from the onset the kind of life described above is inevitable.

  • shady

    i’m afraid to go there but i want to :-{

  • COOLARIES

    I didnt find the place last gtime i went there…is it closed..??? does any1 has an idea about it

  • Sebaz

    I was there last week, Same place, but it’s renamed into ‘Peppers’ and The cinema (nearby) is demolished, so you should ask for ‘Fort Grand’ Well written article, part of the sadness is not specific Indian or asian. But no rent boys here, only (somewhat frustrated, like so man Gays are, all over the world) men and boys. All from rich families, very privilaged to be there in their hippest outfit. This is a western party, far Away from Delhi Reality…

  • Arjun

    Hey i have never been there, can any one come with me …. heard a lot about this place….

  • Hairsh Iyer

    Dear Homophobic Hetrosexual Shania
    You should be Glad that thanks to Gays this world would still have some Natural Resources left for YOUR KIDS in time to come because with the rate this world is getting populated I wonder what would be left for the Future Generation by 2050.
    And Yes I definetly recommend you seeing a SHRINK i will pay for it 😉 for I WAS BORN THIS WAY Au Naturelle
    :)

  • Sannidhya

    Dear Shania I am amazed to see that people like you still exist on this earth.
    I seriously thought “they” perished long back.
    Well thanx for opening my eyes.
    When I hear from people like you I realize why our fate is like this.
    Well I can say that though I am a proud Indian and very much belong to this society I have found people like YOU are actually rare.
    My friends(girls included) when first got to know about my sexuality they had only one reaction”Toh?” “what’s the big deal?”
    I am proud that I am among such people and not people like you or else I would have opted for quitting my life long back which thankfully I didn’t.
    Anyway regarding the writing I can say that he/she belong to the category of “Shania” and that is quite apparent from the writing.
    A so called “straight” person might have enjoyed that but honestly I have not.
    I am adding to Harish Iyer
    “I WAS BORN THIS WAY”……:)

  • dubiousreality

    Thanks everyone for speaking out against bigots, of whom Shania is just a voice, because till homosexuality is not understood as normal, as something that is not chosen (and why in the world would gays decide to be gay in a homophobhic world unless they were born this way – so they could be abused, ridiculed, persecuted?!).

  • Ensorcelled Reader

    In no way do I see Mayank, try to portray a negative imagery of the homosexual society. All I perceive of it is the dual personality that gays have to live with.

    And I think it beautifully captures the essence of the theme, while some people would just love to hate the blogger, as has always been the case with Mayank – a blogger everyone loves to hate.

    It’s time you stop sympathizing with yourself and being defensive of your sexuality and try to realize that the heterosexuals offer acceptance and this blog entry to seems just another attempt to try to enter the psychological space of a homosexual.

    However I am strongly opposed to the use of the word *Queer* and frankly disappointed in you Mayank for that choice, but then I can’t help but genuinely love and appreciate your work.

    Your are unadulterated literary magic.

    Ensorcelled Reader.
    (I think I falling for you, eventhough I’m fully aware you’re a guy, but it’s almost like I have a crush on the way you write man.)

  • Billydubai

    well i dont care whatever you guys are all about here … im gay .. and i was wondering if this place is still open? i honestly think it needs a visit since im gonna be in delhi in less that 2 weeks .. i wanna check the place out 😛

  • im yours

    woo mahh.. dis extralmly nice…….coool njoyd a lot… actually im da same guy… who is talkng on the phone wid papa…actully 2marrw i dnt hav ny lectrure.. so im plang to go fr tuesadays party… i hav never been der… but will go today………..:)

    coool… and ur articlae is dam cooll.. full of imaginary wid reality mahh… nise expressive words ……….

    sooper cool article…:)

  • dan

    When I read the article, Shania reminded me very much of a gay colleague I used to work with. Some of these comments suggest he is heterosexual, and he might be offended by that.

  • Rupesh4

    India needs to grow up and accept people being gay as norm as in the western world.

  • Fair Guy

    It is not a great article. I dont understand what the author is trying to accomplish, what is the central idea of the article. It seems more sarcastic against gay men.

    The last comment made by the author when he/she overheard a kid calling his father to say he was studying seems fake. It could happen, but I think the author is just making it up. There is no proper conclusion.

  • sense

    good information. thats it. there is nothing more to this article. if the author intended to communicate anything else, i must say he has failed miserably at it. a very biased view on homosexuals too. I wonder if the author ever visits a “normal” disco late in the night!

  • Chaser

    This was 7 years ago? Unbelievable! What is a party place in this dirt hole now then?