The Vil­lage of Bounc­ers


A vil­lage on the out­skirts of Delhi pro­vides the young men who pro­tect the city’s pubs, par­ties and night­clubs

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 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 land- scaped 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 mid1990s 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 musthave 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.

“If so many young­sters are in­volved in health and fit­ness, it can only be a good thing,’’ as­sures Kar­tar Singh Tan­war, BJP’s coun­cil­lor from Bhati area where the vil­lages are.

The Gym, a 3,000 sq ft ce­ment struc­ture lined with weights and ma­chines where young­sters grunt and grind for that pump, dis­placed the akhara as the sin­gle-most im­por­tant vil­lage hang­out a decade ago. It opens its creaky doors at 4 a.m. and closes only at 10 p.m. “Our boys are the best in Delhi,” says its pro­pri­etor, Raj Tan­war. “When you come up against some­one twice your size, you will think twice be­fore tak­ing him on.”

You can tell where the bounc­ers work judg­ing by the time they come in for their work­outs: Those with day jobs come in early, the night­club crowd comes in around mid-day, af­ter they’ve slept off their late-night shifts. Each of them spends about Rs 300 a day on food, wolf­ing down, on an av­er­age, an en­tire boiled chicken, 10 egg whites, a dozen bananas and 10 litres of milk. A bouncer earns be­tween Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 per month. One bouncer who has hit pay­dirt is Naren­der Tan­war, a six-foot, 105-kg, 35-year-old who can bench press 200 kg and, not sur­pris­ingly, goes by the nick­name ‘Am­ple’. Am­ple is on the body­guard de­tail of busi­ness­man Karan Singh Tan­war, the rich­est can­di­date in the fray dur­ing Delhi’s 2009 As­sem­bly elec­tions. “I failed in eighth stan­dard; to­day I earn over Rs 30,000 a month and I carry this,” he says, pulling out a li­censed .32 pis­tol from his belt.

But the pro­fes­sion, with its em­pha­sis on health and fit­ness, has a sell-by date. It has forced older bounc­ers to move up the chain and be­come pro­pri­etors. Vi­jay Pe­hal­wan runs a bouncer agency called ‘Storm Group’, Vinod Tan­war, another for­mer bouncer, now owns four night­clubs in Gur­gaon—The Em­pire, Ig­nite, Lu­cia and Powerplay— and is a vil­lage icon.

All young­sters claim to abide by a bouncer code—never ini­ti­ate a fight, never re­spond to abuse, and con­trol emo­tions. Fight only when your life is un­der threat. Some­times, the code is bro­ken and all hell breaks loose. In Au­gust 2011, the vil­lage shot to no­to­ri­ety when its bounc­ers, work­ing in three pubs in Sa­hara Mall, beat up young­sters from Chakarpur vil­lage in Gur­gaon. The bounc­ers say it be­gan as a fight when the ine­bri­ated young­sters went out of con­trol. Both sides called for re­in­force­ments. Fateh­pur Beri won. “Eigh­teen of our bouncer boys flat­tened hun­dreds of vil­lagers. It was like a scene out of the movie,

300,” says Rakesh Tan­war, a lo­cal. Po­lice swooped down on the vil­lage, ar­rested sev­eral bounc­ers even as au­thor­i­ties sus­pended the li­cences of the six pubs and in­sisted they hire pri­vate se­cu­rity guards. The pubs re­turned in a few months, as did the bounc­ers. No eye­brows were raised. A brawl oc­curs in Sa­hara Mall ev­ery few months. The most re­cent, in Fe­bru­ary this year, saw seven Afghan na­tion­als be­ing thrashed by bounc­ers. Th­ese in­ci­dents have led to some soul-search­ing. The bounc­ers say they are try­ing to con­sol­i­date all the vil­lage boys un­der one um­brella, a ‘bouncer sa­maaj’ which will pro­vide cover to its em­ploy­ees.

Not every­body thinks the pro­fes­sion is re­spectable. “Khade re­hte hain… paisa milta hain… khushi waali baat nahin hain (We get money to keep stand­ing, it’s not a happy sit­u­a­tion),” says Kuldeep Tan­war, 27, a bouncer who works at a pri­vate col­lege near the vil­lage. “Hope­fully, the next gen­er­a­tion will turn out bet­ter… we will have doc­tors, lawyers, engi­neers,” he says. Fi­nally, it will be a vic­tory of brain over brawn.






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