Saturday night at the Sahara Mall in Gurgaon. Youngsters reeking of alcohol and cheaper body cheap spray gleefully troop to the third level of the mall and a series of nightclubs, one of which is called Prison. But first they have to pass through a wall of muscle. Three beefy square-jawed bouncers almost identically clad in jeans and bicepbaring tees, arms the size of their thighs, stand before a sign ‘Drugs and ammunition prohibited’ and impassively regard them before rubber-stamping their hands with the entry pass. The youngsters head into the nightclub, a raucous jarring cultural cocktail of waxed-hair young men, with minimally attired women, all set to the accompaniment of blaring Punjabi pop.
- The twin Gujjar Hindu villages of Asola-Fatehpur Beri are on the outskirts of South Delhi (near Chhatarpur).
- These villages’ young Hindu musclemen/bouncers respect their traditions and have healthy habits – no drugs, no alcohol, no pornography.
- Kartar Singh Tanwar is the BJP’s councillor from Bhati area where the villages are.
- Please see photos and article below.
The bouncers outside have one thing in common. All of them are from a twin urban village, Asola-Fatehpur Beri near southern Delhi’s exclusive VIP farmhouse belt, Chhatarpur. Caught in a time warp between rural India and emerging India-high walled gated communities with landscaped gardens and garish wedding farmhouses-Fatehpur Beri is where buffaloes slurp feed from disused bathtubs in the concrete monstrosities and SUVS lock air horns with tractors in narrow brick-lined bylanes.
Over 200 youngsters from these villages, with a population of 50,000, provide the muscles that protect bars and nightclubs in the national capital, secure private colleges and guard businessmen. ‘Bouncery’, as they call it, is a perfectly respectable profession in this village dominated by the pastoral Gujjar community. Most of them sport a common surname, Tanwar, worship their ancestors, and frown on ‘love’ marriage.
“Think of us as protectors without whom you can’t run a business,” says Vijay Tanwar, 40, aka Pehalwan. “We are possibly the healthiest village in Delhi, says Vijay Pehalwan. “Our boys don’t smoke, drink or watch porn clips,” he claims. He does worry about a movie which has had a bad influence on the boys in his village. “Ever since they’ve seen Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” sniffs the wrestler, “they crave sixpacks. They want to be lean.” Lean is an expletive in the village of brawn, where boys see muscles as a ticket to fame. Where the Enfield Bullet is not only the official ride-there are over 100 Bullets registered in the village- but also lifted in impromptu contests to show off strength. Where adequacy is measured by the breadth of your bicep, 19 inches, and weight is how much you can bench.
No one is quite sure when the bouncer surge from the village began but Vijay Pehalwan, sporting a white T-shirt bearing the legend ‘Don’t ask me who Picasso is’, has a story. Fifteen years ago, when he was muddying his legs in the village akhara, a pub owner paid him Rs.10,000 to bring five boys to guard a wedding function in Delhi. The money was a terrific allurement for the village’s small group of recreational wrestlers with little to look forward to except farming or lowpaying government jobs.
As the economic boom of the mid-1990s fuelled a mall, then a nightclub and bar boom in the Capital, the owners needed more than skinny security guards to keep the peace. The boys from Asola-Fatehpur Beri filled the void. Classified ads now routinely ask for bouncers. Musclemen are a must have for weddings, film shoots, malls and even schools, colleges and hospitals. The only prerequisites, for a bouncer who gets paid Rs.1,500 a day, are an impressive physique and no criminal record. Vijay Pehalwan, the trendsetter, now has boys coming to him, touching his feet and asking for career advice. “I generally ask them to study up to Class XII and only then look at this as a serious profession,” he says.
Delhi’s real estate boom also literally turned the ground beneath their feet into gold. Prices have tripled in five years. An acre in Fatehpur Beri costs over Rs.15 crore. Many villagers have sold their pastures to farmhouse developers, investing the money in transport businesses or reinventing themselves as property agents. The rest crowd the gyms as their ticket to class mobility. K.T. Ravindran, former chairman of the Delhi Urban Art Commission, sees Fatehpur Beri and Asola as Delhi’s ancient villages that are now being co-opted into an expanding city with their social fabric left largely intact. “Trends like bouncers are manifest of new subcultures that have grown around money,” he says.