No man wanted me that night; I cannot explain what a safe, liberating experience it was.
I have a gay friend. He is very close to my heart. He is one of my closest friends in Delhi.
One evening, we were lying on the floor in his apartment, cursing the heat, thinking what we could do instead of going to Hauz Khas Village for the umpteenth time. We spent a good long, hour online, hoping to stumble onto something interesting, all while my friend grieved the difficulties of being a gay man in India and finding ‘the one’. Grindr and Tinder had only brought forth what he described as “Punjabi gym bunnies,” who only wanted to have sex and disappeared into the dark of the night never to return again. That’s when I realized what we could do.
“Let’s go to a gay party and let me wing-woman you!” I said bopping up and down.
My friend’s face lit up for a brief moment, “How do we find one?”
Happy and gay! Image source: news.yahoo.com
Another hour of search ensued until we finally came across a group on Facebook that couldn’t have had a more obvious name. Call it luck, destiny or sheer coincidence, but the ‘Gay Parties and Events in Delhi’ page was swamped with advertisements for a party scheduled for that very night!
We wasted no time in RSVP-ing and received our text message invites almost as speedily. We hurried out and took the metro to Connaught Place.
The venue was a lounge bar called Castle 9; and despite a huge electronic board with letters in sparkling golden, we took quite a while to spot the conspicuous entrance to the place. At the gate, the usher quickly checked for our names on the list and having found them, extended his palm for the entry charges.
Entry charges? Wow! Nobody mentioned that on the page.
“It’s not entry ma’am, it’s cover,” he reasoned.
My friend clutched me by the elbow and whispered, “Its okay, I’ll take care of it.”
We were too far into this to back out now.
The party was on the second floor of the building above the restaurant, and we halted every two steps checking ourselves in the stairway mirrors as we made our way up. It looked like any other bar in town – dim lighting, plush sofas, wooden dance floor, clinking of glasses, laughter, thumping bass. However, it felt like I had just walked into a parallel world. I hadn’t expected such a crowd, much less a space turgid with people. So I was stunned to firstly, discover that there were that many gay men in Delhi and secondly, to find a whole lot of them unabashed in their (homo) sexuality. My friend carefully placed his palm under my chin to help me close my jaw and cheekily said, “Yes, we exist!”
I think what made this entire endeavor so exciting was the fact that it wasn’t just my first gay party; it was his too. The thrill on his face was obvious.
Astonished as I was, I hadn’t lost sight of my mission: to find him someone who’ll last longer than a night. I was leaning against the bar scanning the party for possible suitors, when a man approached me and started smooth-talking. `Dear Lord! Can’t a girl ever be left alone?’ when he saw the disdain on my face and said, “Don’t worry, I am gay.”
Rainbow colored party, image source: carrentingoa.com
I felt relieved and confused at the same time. I wasn’t used to men talking to me at bars without an ulterior motive.
We had arrived relatively early and in another hour the place was so full, it was hard to move without trampling someone’s foot. By now we were both sloshed, given that we had been drinking for six hours, and it seemed like every other single person was as well. For some time it stopped feeling like a public place and more like someone’s basement. Everywhere I looked, people were getting it on. I had never seen that many men kissing other men. Hell! I hadn’t ever even seen that many hetero couples make out in one place. Culture shock you could say, but I was thrilled, happy for every gay man around me, except my friend. I wasn’t proving to be such a great sidekick.
Worried now that we were approaching an anti-climax, I mustered fresh courage and started conversations with every other person on the dance floor. Which is when I bumped into a group of three guys and a transgender, one of whom was unbelievably good looking (let’s call him Mr. Darcy). We really hit it off and the six of us were now dancing like our lives depended on it.
At the party
Through the blur that had become my vision, I noticed Mr. Darcy and my friend getting cozy. Added to that, in front of me lay the great opportunity of dancing anywhere instead of at the fringes of the dance floor for fear of being felt up by strange drunk men. No man wanted me that night and I cannot explain what a liberating feeling it was. So I dragged the rest to the middle, leaving the blooming lovebirds behind. One of them pulled me to the bar and we did a round of shots. It went straight to my head and I was shrieking with joy.
Something came over me in that moment and I found myself crawling up on the bar. I took off my shrug, threw it at the crowd, cheered and started doing a very un-sexy version of a sexy dance. I knew I couldn’t have done that in any other bar without being followed by men on my way out and I always wanted to, so I just went with it.
The crowd went bat shit crazy, hooting and cheering, blowing kisses and a couple of vociferous ‘you go girl’ remarks. I felt like I was on top of the world. There’s no denying that attempts were made by the authorities to pull me down, but everyone on the dance floor had created a fort around me, strongly cordoning off the manager and shooing everyone with mojo-killer-vibes away.
A sausage fest at its best. Image source: hiveminer.com
Mr. Darcy and my friend were meanwhile making out at the staircase and the onus was on me to deny his invite to the after party. Ask me why. Remember the transgender? She was his girlfriend and requested me to keep ‘my friend the hell away from him’. I had too much of a great night to ruin it with domestic drama. So we decided to call it a night.
I had never seen a group of people as drunk as I had that night. I had never been as open as I had that night, breaching every single guideline in the ‘Indian girls shouldn’t do this or men will take advantage of you’ book. I had taken off some parts of my clothing, I was so drunk even a donkey could have taken advantage of me. I didn’t only scream for attention, I got up on that bar and had the attention of every single person in that club. Yet it was the safest party I had ever been to. Nobody violated my space physically or mentally. Some guys brought me water, hugged me, kissed me, danced with me but not once did they make feel unsafe.
And this is what I felt amidst a group of men who deal, not just with social stigma, but also a law that had labelled them criminals.
Ask any girl who goes to a 'non-gay' party sometime – well, at least in Delhi – the real 'criminals' go to those.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Suman Quazi
Cover photo credit: clubcity.net