MUSCLE POWER: Some bouncers from Fatehpur Beri; Pics:Yasir Iqbal
Young men are on the treadmill, lifting weights and contorting their bodies in the most amazing of ways. Among them is Pradeep Tanwar, 28. His biceps measure 18 inches, but Tanwar wants them bigger and stronger. But then these are the muscles that pay his bills.
“Jab tak sharir hai, tab tak paisa hai (As long as my body is strong, there will be money),” he says.
He knows that because he is a bouncer — and belongs to a village of bouncers. He, along with a host of others, spends three hours six days a week in the local gym. In the evening, he works in a pub, where, with the help of his bulging muscles, he minds unruly guests.
In the south of Delhi, abutting Chhatarpur and a few kilometres from Gurgaon, are two Gujjar-dominated villages. Over 200 young men from Asola and Fatehpur Beri have been working as bouncers in night clubs, educational institutions and hospitals in Delhi and Gurgaon. Some are hired for the security cover of politicians and industrialists.
Their fathers were farmers. But over the years, their agricultural land was sold to affluent Indians who built sprawling farmhouses there. The villages also tell the story of two worlds that live cheek by jowl. Besides a muddy track that leads to a cowshed where buffaloes and cows feed from hay bins, a cemented road winds its way to multi-storey houses with SUVs and bikes parked around. There is money in the villages, but little education, and thus few avenues for jobs.
A man called Sundar Chaudhary was the first to realise that the well-built village boys could find jobs in the glitzy malls and pubs. The former milk seller set the trend by becoming a bouncer. This was in 1998, a time when Gurgaon’s pub culture was picking up.
Chaudhary, now 38, never went to school. His father was a regular at the village akhara and Chaudhary, the youngest of six brothers and three sisters, picked up tips on body building from him.
Chest: 60 inches
Biceps: 18 inches
Weight: 100 kilos
“That helped me get a job as a security guard at an industrialist’s house at a monthly salary of Rs 3,000,” he says. Soon he was working as a weekend bouncer in a pub for Rs 180 per night. Then he was hired to guard Bollywood stars when they came to Delhi and Gurgaon for product launches and film shoots.
Today Chaudhary runs an informal hiring agency for bouncers. “When the juniors in my village saw me moving around with celebrities, they too wanted to try out their luck as bouncers. They felt it was a glamorous job,” Chaudhary — referred to as guruji by the young men — adds.
Many young men are following in his footsteps because of the growing number of malls and pubs, earning Rs 15,000-30,000 a month. Even many hotels, hospitals and educational institutes prefer to hire these muscular men instead of armed guards, who charge more, and whose firearms can lead to untoward incidents. Bouncers, on the other hand, merely intimidate, without usually indulging in violence.
The bouncers say they have an easy job because all that they have to do is flaunt their body. “Our bulging muscles and the glare in our eyes are enough to warn troublemakers,” says Mushtaq Khan, who works with a private educational institution at Chhatarpur.
Khan says he wanted to become a bouncer as a child. When he was 16, he started building his body. “The senior bouncers in my village were my inspiration,” Khan, 21, says. “I was 65 kilos in 2009 but now I weigh 100 kilos.”
If their fathers and grandfathers built their bodies on milk, curd and ghee, the young men are conscious of their protein-rich diet. On an daily average, most consume the whites of 10 eggs, two boneless chicken breasts, three litres of milk, 10 pieces of roasted almond and walnuts, milkshake and 100gm of mixed soya beans and chickpea soaked in water, apart from two rotis and a bowl of vegetable curry for dinner.
“We spend around Rs 10,000 on our diet,” Vikram Tanwar, 26, says. “We worship the body. It’s the body that sells.”
It doesn’t just sell; it evokes respect as well. Vinod Tanwar, a former bouncer who runs two clubs, recalls that when he visited Delhi’s Lotus Temple with his wife, he found a long queue at the gate. “I rolled up my sleeves, flaunted my 19-inch biceps and walked ahead with my wife. The security guard didn’t stop me,” he recounts.
Ashok Tanwar, who was also once a bouncer and now runs a club, even impressed Bollywood star Govinda. In 2006, he was a part of a team of 15 bouncers who were taking care of the actor’s security during a film shoot. “Govinda was awed by my body. He asked me for tips on how to lose fat on his thighs.”
But a bouncer’s life is not quite a bed of roses either. Arguments in pubs over trivial issues such as the choice of a song being played or over a drink can lead to violence. Most bouncers have been given instructions by their employers on how to behave in such circumstances. They have been told to be assertive, but not aggressive.
“If we see anyone misbehaving, we just walk up to the person and request him to behave. If he still doesn’t, we quietly ask him to leave. We don’t use abusive language or physically abuse anyone. When the situation goes out of the hand, we call the police,” Khan says.
Bar managers agree that sometimes situations spin out of control. “Some men come with a wad of notes and a gun and demand entry. When bouncers stop them, they are abused,” a pub manager says.
Sometimes the altercations turn violent. Last year, some drunken men thrashed the bouncers in a pub in Gurgaon’s Sahara Mall. Vinod was also jailed for six months on charges of attempt to murder in 2011 in a case where bouncers from his village clashed with youngsters from a nearby village in a Gurgaon mall. “I was just a silent spectator but was falsely implicated,” he says.
Bouncers rue that some people tend to shrug them off as goons. Soft-spoken Ravi Tanwar, who works at the Ignite club in Gurgaon, believes his job doesn’t bring him respect. “That’s why I have told my father that I work as a manager in a restaurant. If he gets to know that I am a bouncer, he won’t let me work.”
Another problem that they face is that their jobs will not see them through old age. The professional life of a bouncer, they add, is limited to the age of 40. “It is difficult to maintain the body beyond 40. After that, some choose to open their own clubs while others sit at home,” Ravi says.
That explains why the younger boys from the villages in the gyms don’t aspire to be bouncers. Sachin Chauhan, 22, is pursuing a bachelor’s in business administration at a private college but has dreams that have little do with accounts.
“I want to become a model,” he says.
Daily diet for the average bouncer
• Whites of 10 eggs
• Two boneless chicken breasts
• Three litres of milk
• 10 pieces of roasted almond and walnuts
• 100 grams of mixed soya beans and chickpeas soaked in water