Case Study #4: Clubbin’

I have never been to a club in America.

I imagine this is because I would probably hate it. I liked getting drunk in my old apartment with some friends and Ty’s guitar, wearing black leggings and a bleach-stained tank top. I don’t think I’d like getting drunk to blaring music and sparkly shirts and sweaty men suctioning themselves to my hips (this is almost certainly unavoidable for any XX chromosome-bearing individual).

But I’m not in America. I’m in India. And here, we were invited (by Ashik, of course, our mysterious and overly generous host) to experience a night of clubbing in an Indian city of 3 million. This is not necessarily an authentic “Indian” experience, but I suppose it is an authentically affluent Indian experience, at least in recent years. Ashik is nothing if not affluent, and we are nothing if not spoiled, so this was where we were going to end up.

We were picked up a little after 9 and it was once again the familiar trio of American girls (we have bonded this weekend, with everyone away) and Imran and A at the wheel. Imran was wearing possibly the most adorable t-shirt I’ve ever seen (a globe in the middle, surrounded by the words “Boys can help save the Earth!” in a bloated and childlike font) and A was in a sleek white button-up, black pants, and shiny shoes. He doesn’t do casual.

When we arrived at the hotel with the club–which I’d grossly underestimated the grandeur of–we followed A past the desk (where he wheeled around before the last moment to scoop up complimentary pink candies from a dish and drop them into our palms) and toward the club. It was around this time that I realized with some panic that there was a cover charge of 500R. each (I’d brought 100R. from the car, absentmindedly) but before I could explain my lack of funds we’d already been ushered past the guard and were descending into the darkness of a floor below.

Nowhere in the world do parties start at 9:30pm, and still, when I saw the empty dance floor but heard the blaring house music, I felt embarrassed. Doesn’t everyone, at that sight? Still, the guys looked unfazed, knew the territory and how the night worked, and we followed them toward the bar. A menu appeared and I selected something involving gin, always a standby. I felt a little nervous and figured I would need the help of gin to make the dance floor a viable option.

Everyone got a drink but Ashik–he is a Muslim, and refuses alcohol.

It took a while for things to get started, and meanwhile we staked out a few couches in a dark corner and sucked down our poison. I sat next to and spoke to Imran, who, at this point, I had come to recognize as shy and a little awkward. In my view, this is perfect for a dancing partner, so before we’d even gone out on the floor I’d decided to target him for forced dancing. “So how do you know Ashik?” I asked him.

“I worked in one of his stores,” he explained. “He said I should think of him as a friend, not a boss.”

Kari was getting restless. She looked back and forth between all of us, and motioned to the dance floor, where maybe six people were at this point. The music was still bad techno house music, but at some point we were going to have to start dancing; Ashik had been footing an impressive bill, and I didn’t want to sit around on my lame ass, and offer this impression of America (it’s surprising how often I feel like some sort of American ambassador). So the three Americans grabbed Imran and we went to the dance floor.

I am not sure how things escalated from here. Not long after we got on the floor, the music changed to the danceable sort — and actually danceable too. You don’t know danceable until you know Indian pop music. Following the change in music, the floor–and the room–was suddenly full. Full, and dark, and moving, and smiling. And not just young people, either. There were a fair number of middle-aged people, and there was nothing awkward about this. I don’t think I could imagine this not being awkward if I hadn’t experienced it.

And here’s something else. Men dance here. Everyone dances. Nobody cares how they look–they just dance. Imran, who I had pegged as so shy, was maybe the craziest of them all. He barely left the dance floor. And here’s something else. Men are content to dance with you. I had no problem with the suctioning males because they had no desire to suction–I danced with several guys, and they all faced me. It felt like it was more about fun than sex, and it hasn’t been like that since 6th grade.

I also probably haven’t danced like I did last night since the 6th grade. Maybe it was the gin-saturated drinks, or maybe just the realization that allowing myself to be even a little self-conscious would have wasted and disturbed the whole experience. I am on the other side of the world. There is liberation in that.

While most of the dancing veers in all directions–a group facing each other, girls dancing with girls, guys dancing with guys, girls and guys pairing off and then switching, dancing with people you’ve never met–I did end up somehow with one guy in particular, a tallish and muscularish Hindustani with a mop of curly hair–vaguely attractive, if I’d stood still long enough to focus on his face. He told me his name time and time again and I didn’t hear it even one time. He spun me. He tried to teach me to salsa. I struggled to keep up.

Eventually, Ashik, who rarely danced (unless we forced him) and spent most of his time watching over us like a hawk, eventually moved us upstairs to a cooler area to rest for a while–on the overhang we could look over the dance floor. It may have been a helpful move in giving the girls a moment away from some of the more attentive guys, or it may just have been a desire for some cooler air. It was hard to tell. Still, as we went back to the floor, as he stood to the side, sober, watching over us, he began to seem protective in addition to simply mysterious. I spent the last few minutes wondering about him. He hasn’t made a pass at any of us, but he’s been entirely accommodating and friendly. Are there really some people in the world like that? Is there something we don’t know?

We left early, by club standards–around 1AM, to get back to the guys’ apartment (the guys in our program, that is– this is where Kari and I would be sleeping) before the gate closed. We were sweaty and happy in the car, and I thought of something. “What is ‘kiss’ in Hindi? How do you say ‘Kiss me’ in Hindi?”

Mujhe papi karon,” he translated.

“Mujhe papi karon!” I tried.

“Not right now,” he said.

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~ by pinkcityaurat on August 17, 2008.

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