This week, the Supreme Court earned the respect of thousands of lonely and unwashed men after it struck down the Maharashtra government’s eight-year-long ban on dance bars. The verdict antagonised R.R Patil, who said that the state would take legal measures to ensure that dance bars stay shut, because apparently, bar girls are responsible for all of the world’s evils, right from the holocaust to Jain Chicken.
But the Home Minister was gracious enough to admit that the state’s post-ban vocational program for the rehabilitation of bar girls had received a grand total of zilch applications. This implies that people distrust elected representatives to the point where they’d rather go for the safety and stability offered by pimps, gangsters and patrons who look like they stab a minimum of three puppies for lunch.
The bars had been ordered shut on moral grounds, so clearly, it was the dancers’ fault. They would’ve been better off pursuing more moral professions, such as Riot Engineer, Farmer Suicide Enabler and Sea Statue Builder. The Dance Bar Association is now hoping that Mr. Patil will be as effective at opposing the SC order as he is at bolstering the state’s security.
Dance bars seem to be such a quintessential Bombay experience, like bumming around Colaba, or getting leptospirosis. My friends and I visited one a few years ago, but it didn’t really count because the ‘No Dancing’ rule was still in effect, which meant that the women just bobbed their heads and tried to seduce you by pouting in that lovely ‘Surgeon Botched My Lip Job’ way. Or as girls on Facebook call it, “WEEKEND DUCKFACE XOXO!”
Now before you judge me, please know that this visit was academic in nature. I had always been fascinated by the subculture and wanted to write about it. I was also partly inspired by Suketu Mehta’s account of Monalisa, the bar dancer, in his book ‘Maximum City’. (Similarly, I wanted to visit Dongri after reading Hussain Zaidi. Then I read Arindam, whose book gave me mind cancer.)
Saying that you want to visit a dance bar makes you sound like a creep who’s never had normal interactions with women. But I’ll have you know that I have many female friends, and I never, ever shower them with tenners. Unless it’s their birthday or something. Kidding. I respect all my female friends, because they are all ekdum mast raapchik maal jhakaas malai maar ke.
Dance bars are highly embarrassing for men who aren’t – to use a scientific term – slobbery sleazebags. The standard procedure involves ogling every dancer with a zen-like focus that can be achieved only after years of desperation. The problem is that normal guys like me aren’t used to this concept of blatantly staring at random women and then summoning the ones they like, as if they were items on a menu. The only other place it is acceptable to do this is shaadi.com.
(During my visit, I displayed all the charm and swagger of James Bond, the ornithologist after whom the fictional spy was named. After mustering up the courage to call over one of the women, I led with a timid, “Aap ka naam kya hai?” Not used to being slapped with respectful words like ‘aap’, she looked at me oddly, as if a giant nipple had just sprouted on my forehead. She walked away soon after, and then it hit me. I’d just been rejected by a bar dancer. It made me want to return to the real world, where I could go back to being rejected by women I know.)
Even though dancing may be allowed now, the SC has recommended that bars follow some guidelines, including a mandatory “non-revealing” dress code, all in the interest of women’s safety and world peace. Dancers will now wear a salwar-kameez, topped off with a saree, wrapped in a burkha, enclosed in a HAZMAT suit, and then sit in a lead-lined concrete box. For extra safety, this box will then be placed in orbit around Saturn. Basically, what the government means to say is that the women should slip into something safer, like the Y-chromosome.
The ongoing tussle between politicians and bar dancers is odd, given that both have the same work philosophy: How much money can I squeeze outta this sucker before he breaks? At least with bar girls, you know your money won’t be blown up on statues in the sea.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 21st July 2013.)