I wore a spaghetti-strap top, my friend wore a little black dress and we pretended we were American teenagers. We heard faint honking nearly drowned out by the music and rushed out.
Compared to the rest of India, Bangalore was an early adopter of the pub culture. By the time we looked old enough to sneak into clubs (the official age is 18), the club scene had peaked into a booze-soaked, weed-flavored, dance-filled crazy one.
Now I’m grown-up, cynical and in Bangalore ten years later. I am picking up my date. The traffic is satanic. It’s already 7PM, I worry we might not make it. We have planned a crawl – through at least three places.
Hang on, have I been saying Bangalore? Sorry, the city has been renamed Bengaluru, closer to the local-language version. That’s one of the first things right-wing politicos who come into power do. First the anglicized city names go and then the streets names are tackled.
But Bangalore had many more western influences it could be purged of: dance floors, late night parties, loud music, and the loose women who indulge in all this.
I was at a safe distance in Mumbai when I heard the name had been changed. Then the 11:30 closing time was imposed, dancing was made illegal and loud music banned.
Last year, ‘loose and forward, pub-going women’ in the region were attacked. They called it the emergence of the Hindu Taliban in India.
Tonight we’re trying to pack in as much as possible. My partner and I are at a famous, old pub. I chat up the manager hoping he’ll commiserate with me. But the new closing time isn’t cutting into his business. Revelers used to tank up on cheap liquor and go on to posher places. Now, they continue tying one on before heading home, he says with glee.
One day, the powers-that-be will decide that serving liquor to boys and girls in the same room is illegal. We’ll see what he says then.
Fabulous memories from the past are disintegrating like bits from a Michael Gondry film.
We’re 18. It’s 5 AM. My friend and I are dancing. Our dates, two older men, have paid for our drinks all night and have passed out on the couch. We can’t stop laughing.
Another time, dancing the night away, we’re drunk, disoriented and our dates have split, but we’re busy trying to bum cigarettes from people – precious at the end of a long night.
Tonight, after a quick round of drinks, we decide to head directly to the third place – Opus. We have no time.
It’s Karoke Night. An Indian Frank Sinatra is on the stage and families with children in tow look on. I want to cry. This is not what Friday nights in Bangalore used to look like. Now I hear quizzes, speed-dating and games are the focus of the evening at many clubs.
There is just one table that looks like a good time. It’s filled with expats ordering shots (there are about 10,000 of them in the city). Luckily, they’re friends of my date.
Gez, from England, who has lived in Bangalore for four years, makes the cutthroat gesture while talking about the ‘rules’. David, my date for the evening, has just moved from America, in the two months that he has been here, he has thrown a lot of all-night parties at home. Then neighbors started to complain. I also hear stories of cops coming knocking. I imagine a ‘Persepolis’-like scene. Except our cops don’t have long beards.
The girls decide to sing the last song for the night – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. We were hopelessly off key. The boys tell us we were fabulous.
Karaoke is fun but for a moment, I slip back into the past: we’re 18, on a crowded dance floor, our favorite song is on (Lady, Hear me Tonight), and we’re screaming as we recognize the first notes. I would be happier knowing I still had the choice to be on a dance floor doing the exact same thing (to a newer song, of course).
Traveling to India? Be prepared by learning 10 Indian Customs to Know Before Visiting India.
Read more of Aarthi’s unique perspecitives on India by checking out 5 Things to do in Jaipur, India.