|A rashof hip pubs have flung open their doors
over the last year. So does Delhi rock? Well, it's trying.
music thunders out of the heavy wooden door whenever it opens. Now
and then girls in skimpy tops and lots of make-up emerge for a breath
of fresh air, energising the ranks of buff, often leery, single
men trying to get in. As long as it's up to the 118-kg bouncer at
the door, they won't.
Bangalore? Mumbai? Actually, this is Delhi,
where evening fun was once limited to running red lights and eating
roadside "bun-omlets". The hard-living exec really had
no place to party, unless your definition of unwinding was nursing
a contemplative drink in a deserted five-star bar. On any night-weekends
are of course peak hour-these days, Delhi is buzzzzzzing. And so
we espy No Escape-a sparsely decorated pub born five months ago,
with great music and bean bags, 3,000 sq ft across two floors-with
400 people inside and 250 outside, thronging the parking lot in
Connaught Place, hoping for a chance to get in.
It's been an epochal year of sorts so far:
call it the year Delhi learned to party. Ludicrous excise laws prohibiting
bars from displaying booze or building bar stools are out. A swelling
tide of professionals is pressuring Delhi's puritarian mindset.
Pubs are now opening at the rate of two every month.
"It was bound to happen,"
laughs Sunny Sarid, 38, celebrity DJ and now owner, Café
Sound of Music, the most lively place in Gurgaon since December.
"There has been a phenomenal growth in the number of people
that want to go out." For a long time, the only option for
party-goers were bars at the five-star hotels like Djinns, Float
or 1911. This isn't cheap. Not that the pubs are. The average spend
at Delhi's new pubs is around Rs 1,000 per couple, so according
to Sarid, there are many who now go about two or three times a week.
|HOT AND HIP. OR NOT?
A guide to Delhi's new watering holes
Of Music, Gurgaon
AVG SPEND: Rs700-1,000/couple
CUISINE: Lebanese, Continental, Indian, Italian
VERDICT: You can eat, drink or dance the night away.
Guaranteed: A good night out.
AVG SPEND: Rs 700/couple
CUISINE: Chinese, Thai, Continental and Indian
VERDICT: A classy place, the definitive pub even. Also
boasts the only female DJ in town.
AVG SPEND: Rs 1,000-1,200/couple
CUISINE: Limited global cuisine, including sizzlers
VERDICT: If you're a local, go. The music is good,
and it's quite cosy.
AVG SPEND: Rs 650/couple
CUISINE: Mexican, Continental, Italian, Indian BBQ
VERDICT: Good for dancing, but a few too many teeny-boppers
AVG SPEND: Rs 700-1,000/couple
CUISINE: Indian, Chinese, Continental and a hint of Lebanese
VERDICT: Great décor but average food. The band
is way too loud.
per minute), Chanakyapuri
AVG SPEND: Rs 1,200-1,400/couple
CUISINE: Continental and Indian
VERDICT: Niche crowd of diplomats and bureaucrats.
Good if you like hip hop.
Devils, South Extension Part II
AVG SPEND: Rs 1,000-1,200/couple
VERDICT: It's hip. It's happening. There is something
for everyone: great variety in music.
AVG SPEND: Rs 700/couple
CUISINE: Continental, Italian, a hint of Chinese/Indonesian,
Thai and Indian
VERDICT: A very stylishly casual hang-out. It's great
for house/trance lovers really.
AVG SPEND: Rs 500/couple
CUISINE: Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Continental and Thai.
VERDICT: Almost brand new. Decor is okay but hmmmm.
Let's give it some time.
Bar & Grill, Saket
AVG SPEND: Rs 1,000-1,200
VERDICT: The epitome of lounge music and atmosphere,
combined with a mature crowd: Perfect for execs.
With so many new options (See Hot and Hip. Or
Not?) available, there's suddenly a wide choice-and you could go
the whole evening without a bhangra. "I enjoy going out to
meet friends, hang out with them," confesses a shy Riju Jhunjhunwala,
23, Director, LNJ Bhilwara Group. Edgar Noordanus, 31 (and he's
Scandinavian), manager and bartender at Delhi's Devils-open only
three months-proudly displays his 7,000 sq ft space. "Finally,
tourists have a place to go!" he exclaims with a flick of his
But Mumbai loyalists abound, many pointing
to the 11 p.m. deadline for alcohol. "Delhi is dead,"
sniffs Ankur Bhatia, 29, CEO, Amadeus, a company that provides travel
software. "There is nowhere I can go after dinner, like in
Mumbai or Bangalore." Delhi must also contend with a slightly
violent culture. At Pluto's-a haven for underage drinkers nestled
in a semi-urban strip of what was once shrub forest-passing through
a metal detector is de rigeur. The 'Firearms Not Allowed' sign is
of course unique to Delhi.
"Pubs are never safe, especially for women,"
says Amrit Kiran Singh, 43, Vice President & Area Director,
South Asia, Brown Forman Spirits, "But," he muses, "Delhi
seems to be growing up." The new pubs are certainly serious
about controlling the profile of people that enter. Frisking-the
men of course-is the norm, but screening clientele is tough. "Everyone
in Delhi suffers from a very strong 'I know so-and-so', and 'I am
so-and-so' syndrome," says Noordanus with resignation. Secondly,
only couples are allowed. "Stags usually make the couples uncomfortable,"
explains Shekhar Bhatia, 39, businessman and owner, Bacchus, (Vasant
Vihar), a two-month-old addition to the party circuit. "We
only let them in if they are regulars or if we feel they are fit
to be." Even here, there's change. At the Final Countdown (Saket)-designed
on a heaven-and-hell concept- owner Akhil, 21, says he doesn't mind
stags: "There has to be someplace where they can go!"
But Delhi clearly isn't there yet. Many want
to be seen as trendy, want to be seen with the right people-but
not with others-and in the right places. "We make this place,"
declares svelte Shefali Aswani, 31, partner, Privasia Trading. Delhiites
don't just go out for the hell of it. They are averse to being photographed,
being identified by certain people who may know other people. For
many, going out is still a furtive affair, akin to sin sometimes.
That could be why the devil motif seems to be so popular: skeletons,
creepy crawlies, red walls, spiders. There's still the hint of the
illicit in partying hard.
So what does Delhi drink? "Though cocktails
are becoming more popular, Beer and Smirnoff (for its low fat content)
are easily the winners," enthuses a hearty Dhiraj Arora, 28,
owner, No Escape, who also runs his family business of trading packaging
material. "Ideally I start with a drink at Buzz then head off
to Pluto's or Sound of Music," says Ashish Sharma, 27, Area
Sales Manager, Star TV, who goes out at least twice a week if not
And the music: lounge music is in. DJs start
with it, then take it to either house and trance (Pluto's, No Escape)
or like Devils' celebrity DJ JC, 34, play, "an even mix of
80s, commercial pop/hip hop, house and trance and perhaps a couple
of popular Hindi numbers if requested."
The DJ at Sound of Music spins out his tracks
from a set located in a piano. Volumes go up after 10 pm, and since
that's the time when Delhi begins its evening, forget about that
Noisy, rough, pretentious-Delhi is all these,
but at least it's finally alive and kicking, they say. "It's
getting there," grins Gaurav Kaul, 24, Manager, HDFC Standard
Life. Party animal Kaul moved to Delhi from Mumbai last year and
is pleasantly surprised at the changes he sees. Will Delhi actually
"get there"? Check in: same page, next year.
Back in the early seventies,
the one must-have gadget in any self-respecting male teenager's
room used to be the Bullworker. Are you old enough to remember
the Bullworker? Or did the neighbourhood gym come up by the
time your first miserable round of acne did? For those of
us who remember the Bullworker-it was always bought by mail
order-it used to have this near-mythical property of being
able to transform you from a 40-kg weakling to a beefy giant.
To be sure, its application of a combination of isometric
and isotonic principles did help build muscles. In simple
terms, exercising on the Bullworker made muscles work against
each other, creating resistance and strengthening them. Its
fabled inventor, Gert F. Kobel claimed to have studied the
workings of human muscles for over 10 years before producing
a prototype from which the Bullworker was derived.
The only problem with the Bullworker was that it could make
you look very beefy. No problems with that. Those were the
days of the beefcake look-bulging pecs, hefty delts and huge
biceps. The lean muscled look wasn't popular then and it was
size that really mattered. No one wasted time doing cardio-vascular
exercises-the only place you'd risk encountering the treadmill
was perhaps in the biology lab where the poor rats would be
running on them. A Bullworker was convenient too, it was portable
and less cumbersome than, say, having an assortment of barbells
and other weights at home. But exercising on the Bullworker
had its problems. Like a friend who built huge biceps and
very little else. Also, since most of the exercises on a Bullworker
are done sitting down or kneeling, your lower body tended
to get neglected-another aspect that didn't seem to matter
in the seventies!
Sometime in the 1980s, the Bullworker lost popularity. And
then came the gyms and a focus on fitness rather than on building
muscles. By the time the nineties rolled in, the Bullworker
was almost extinct. So I was surprised to learn that it is
making a comeback. Its X5 model retails at around $100 on
its website and comes in a sleeker design. I'm wondering...
if you follow a regime of cardio-vascular exercises and add
a bit of Bullworker workouts, could it be a good exercise
combo? Perhaps I'm just trying to find an excuse to buy one
just like the Zippo lighter I have or the Remington mechanical
typewriter I picked up last summer... just for old times sake.