Archive for February 2014

  • 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.

  • Vital statistics

    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.

Fit food

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

• Milkshake

• 100 grams of mixed soya beans and chickpeas soaked in water

It’s official. Cricket is in a mess, and newspapers and television can’t have enough of the report that’s indicted a cricket boss’s son-in-law. But the man who headed the committee that prepared the report — former chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mukul Mudgal — is calm in the midst of the storm.

“Everyone is talking about the report, but I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” says Mudgal, 65, dressed in a blue checked blazer with a grey sweater and a pair of dark grey trousers.

Indeed, the report is the talk of the town. It has held Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of N. Srinivasan (president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India — BCCI), guilty of betting in Indian Premier League (IPL) matches.

But it’s not just the report that’s in the news. A so-called rift among the three members of the committee — Mudgal, additional solicitor general L. Nageshwar Rao and Assam Cricket Association member Nilay Dutta — is also being talked about. Two reports were presented to the Supreme Court which set up the Mudgal committee to look at Meiyappan’s role in the matches last summer. One was jointly filed by Mudgal and Rao and the other by Dutta. Mudgal did not sign the Dutta report; Dutta did not sign the Mudgal report.

The grapevine has it that Mudgal had no idea Dutta was filing a supplementary report. “Don’t be silly,” he had told a confidant when he was informed about it.

He doesn’t want to talk about it now. “The very purpose of a three-member committee is to have a different point of view,” is all that he’ll say. “Let the Supreme Court decide which report to accept.”

The former judge’s critics say his report has said nothing new, as it mostly asks for “further investigations” into many issues related to betting.

“I agree that our report is not revolutionary,” Mudgal says. “We did not state things we couldn’t corroborate.”

Dutta, on the other hand, has said that six players who were in the Indian team were involved in fixing IPL games. Dutta has also suggested that the BCCI should adopt a “zero tolerance policy” in matters of corruption.

But Mudgal holds that the BCCI is “the best run sports body in the country.” He also praises Srinivasan. “During Srinivasan’s tenure, cricketers benefited monetarily. Also, in the arena of international cricket, Srinivasan has been able to establish the strength of India which is proportional to its contribution,” he says.

Some media reports suggest that a sealed note — mentioning Dhoni’s name in the betting scandal — has been given to the Supreme Court by the Mudgal committee. “I cannot say anything about a matter that is confidential,” stresses Mudgal, who loves Dhoni’s “cool temperament” and “innovative captaincy”.

Clearly, Mudgal is wary about being misquoted. Through the interview, he stops every now and then when he feels he has said something controversial and requests that he not be quoted. And he urges me to delete some portions from the taped interview.

Is he worried that he may be harmed because cricket is now such a murky and dangerous field?

Mudgal laughs. “No, no. I have no fear at all,” he says. “As a judge, I have dealt with many sensitive cases. If you fear, you cannot decide.”

But what about former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi’s remarks that Mudgal was being followed by people in three Audi cars and several motorbikes who were covertly recording his movements during his visit to London earlier this month?

“I only wish I had known that Audi cars were trailing me. I would have very happily sat in one of them instead of travelling by train or taxi,” he says wryly.

Mudgal, I realise, is a great cricket buff as he opens up during the interview. Though he once watched a T20 match at Lord’s in England, he is devoted to Test cricket and feels that the IPL has in many ways spoiled young cricketers.

“I am not saying ban the IPL but players have got too much wealth at a very young age because of the IPL. This is leading them astray,” Mudgal feels.

Mudgal takes a call — presumably from a journalist who wants to know about the rift between the committee members — and when he hangs up, he indicates he’s had enough of cricket talk.

“Why don’t you ask me about my life,” he asks. “You know, I am the first and last lawyer in the family.”

His mother, he adds, wanted him to continue with science after he graduated in chemistry from Delhi’s Hindu College. She thought only “rowdies” studied law. But despite her misgivings, he joined Delhi University’s faculty of law in 1969. “I pursued law because I always had a special thing for underdogs,” says Mudgal, who was earlier this week appointed the chairperson of the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, which deals with issues that private television channels face.

Along with law, he loves music. His father, Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, set up the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Delhi — an institute where classical music was and is taught. His brother and sister are acclaimed classical artistes — Madhup is a singer and Madhavi a dancer.

“I used to play the mandolin in school. My talent in music is limited to that. But I am a great listener and admirer of classical music,” Mudgal, who studied at Delhi’s Modern School, adds.

Love for music brought him and vocalist Shubha Mudgal together. They met in the late 1970s when she performed at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. He was 29, a practising lawyer, and she was 20. They fell in love and were married in 1982. The marriage, however, didn’t last.

Their son, Dhaval, lives with his father and sings for a rock band called Half Step Down. “I raised him by myself since he was five. But I enjoyed every bit of being a single parent,” he says.

Mudgal has inculcated a love for cricket and football in his son. “When he was a kid, I used to tempt him with a pack of chips to take him to a cricket match.” When he did well in a pre-board examination in 2002, the fond father took him to watch a one-day International match between India and England at Calcutta’s Eden Gardens. “I thought that would be an unusual gift to my son,” he smiles.

The retired judge himself started watching cricket when he was all of five. Mudgal recalls watching a Test match between India and the West Indies at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla when he was 11. “Those days, a season ticket would cost Rs 8. I bought one but was late every day, so I had to watch the entire match standing.”

It’s Mudgal’s love for cricket that prompted him to write Law and Sports in India, Development Issues and Challenges. He is also a member of the court of arbitration for sport, a quasi-judicial international body which settles disputes related to sport, in Lausanne, Switzerland. He also drafted India’s National Sports Development Bill which seeks to bring all sports federations, including the BCCI, under the purview of the Right to Information Act.

In 1989, he, along with the former attorney general, Soli J. Sorabjee, represented in the Supreme Court a group of Indian cricketers who had been banned from playing cricket. Among them was Mohammed Azharuddin. “I was a great fan of his and was hurt that he was among the banned cricketers.”

In legal circles, Mudgal is respected and often described as a “sensitive” judge. Actress Karisma Kapoor and Delhi businessman Sanjay Kapur’s divorce case came up before him in 2005 when he was a judge at the Delhi High Court. He had then said: “There could be nothing better for the child if the matter is settled. Marriage is usually a heavy chain that takes three to carry — the husband, wife and the child.”

He admits that this perspective on marriage and divorce is drawn from his own life. “A personal life experience often gives a perspective to a case. A judge will be useless if he doesn’t use that perspective,” he says.

I ask him about corruption in the judiciary. Though cautious on the subject, he is critical of the way judges are appointed through a collegium. “I really regret the way the collegium is functioning now, with only favourites getting a chance. I strongly believe that a judge’s elevation to the Supreme Court should happen only on the basis of merit, not on the basis of seniority,” he says.

Mudgal, who opposes post-retirement appointments of judges, did not accept any posts that were offered to him after he retired. “I want to do things that I want to do,” he says.

And this is exactly what he is doing these days. A great fan of Sherlock Holmes, he loves reading detective novels. Currently, he is reading former Australian cricketer Michael Hussey’s Underneath the Southern Cross. A great foodie, Mudgal loves street food, especially golgappas (phuchkas). “When I was in the court in Chandigarh, my niece took me to a market to have golgappas. I went without any security. I love this kind of life.”

As I prepare to leave, he reminds me once again that some parts of the conversation should be kept off the record. I assure him that I would do so. But, for a judge, seeing is believing. “Send me a copy please,” Mudgal says. And that’s an order.

Tete a tete with Mukul Mudgal

The Aam Aadmi Party wants to contest 350 Lok Sabha seats, but where will it get candidates who can win an election? Sonia Sarkar on the dilemma the party faces

If questions were wishes, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would ride the wave of success. With elections around the corner, the newest kid on the political block is looking at candidates for Parliament. But despite the party’s popularity in some quarters, there seems to be a dearth of suitable candidates.

“So far, we have received around 5,000 applications. We have extended the last date for applications because we haven’t got the right candidates yet,” party leader Yogendra Yadav says.

People seeking a nomination have to fill in a form that’s available online. Candidates will be called for an interview where they will be asked several questions: Do you have a past connection with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or Congress? Do you have a team of volunteers of your own? Has your work made any difference to the local community?

No to the first question and yes to the remaining two would be appreciated.

But while would-be candidates are busy submitting their forms, AAP is in a dilemma. Just where is it going to get winnable candidates from? Winning 28 seats and defeating three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit in Delhi gave the party a political boost. What it has not given — a legacy that all major parties have inherited or have developed — is a list of experienced candidates.

Of course, a few well-known people have joined AAP, which now boasts of 8 million members. Among them is airline entrepreneur Captain G.R. Gopinath and former banker Meera Hiranandani Sanyal, who wishes to contest from Mumbai South. In Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, earlier with the Communist Party of India, and journalist Ashutosh are new entrants, as is former Congress leader Alka Lamba. In Gujarat, dancer Mallika Sarabhai is likely to fight the election as an AAP candidate.

But these are all people who have either never fought an election outside campuses, or fought and lost. Sarabhai was defeated by BJP leader L.K. Advani and Sanyal by Congressman Murli Deora in the 2009 general elections. Lamba lost to Madan Lal Khurana in the 2003 Delhi elections.

Earlier this week, AAP came out with a list of names — featuring, among others, BJP’s Nitin Gadkari and Congress’s Rahul Gandhi — which its candidates will fight against in the coming polls. A party functionary also said it would contest from 350 seats out of 543 parliamentary seats.

“We are looking for popularity in an area and acceptability within the organisation,” Yadav says. “Those who leave the BJP or the Congress just before the elections and join us hoping to get a ticket are not welcome,” stresses AAP’s Sanjay Singh who, along with Yadav, is the co-chair of the party’s search committee for suitable candidates.

The party is also looking for people who have done social work for more than 20 years — and that’s not an easy criterion to meet. Sanyal, for instance, is an important fundraiser, but has just five years of social work to her credit. She, however, stresses that she has vast experience.

  • In line: Mallika Sarabhai, who is likely to be a candidate; and (top) college girls at a membership drive in Patna

“I have worked with women in tribal and forest areas and helped them become entrepreneurs. I have travelled across 15 states to live with and document the challenges and successes of women. Plus, I have worked with the youth too,” she says.

The party hopes to do well in the two northern states — Delhi and Haryana — where it has a presence. But in many states, there are hardly any applicants. For the 48 seats in Maharashtra, it has received 300 applications and for the six seats in Mumbai, 60 applications so far.

“Applications for the Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra are also coming from Delhi,” says Preeti Menon, secretary of the party’s Maharashtra chapter.

In many states it has hardly any presence. In Jharkhand, the party is still to emerge. The scenario is equally bleak in Bengal, where the party has received seven applications so far. But state unit chief Mukul Kesri holds that the party will fight from South 24 Paraganas, South Calcutta, North Calcutta, Howrah and Hooghly (Serampore).

Yadav is not so sure. “Looking at the organisational strength of the party in Bengal, we don’t think that we can contest any seats there,” he says.

In Bihar, the party seems to have been overwhelmed by caste equations. “It is easier to break into a state which has a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress,” Yadav admits.

In the south, AAP is relatively strong in Bangalore, where it has over 1,00,000 members and prominent faces such as Gopinath and V. Balakrishnan, former Infosys board member and currently chairman, MicroGraam.

It has a presence in Kerala too, but not enough candidates. AAP wants to fight the CPI(M) and the Congress in 20 parliamentary seats, but has received 25 nominations so far. “But a lot of social activists who have done good work are joining us,” says Kerala unit convener Manoj Padmanabhan.

AAP has been trying to focus on Gujarat — where it plans to take on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Ashutosh and Sanjay Singh have been conducting rallies in Gujarat but the response has been lukewarm. The party has received 105 nominations for 26 parliamentary seats but none of these is from people with strong political backgrounds.

“It is disappointing because Gujarat is a challenging battlefield for us,” Gujarat unit secretary Sanjeev Srivastava says.

The problem with AAP, it emerges, is AAP itself. The party, which has come up on a platform of clean politics, is in a bind. Many people who seek to join the party, and who may win elections, are not clean. On the other hand thousands of incorruptible people who are with AAP and willing to fight the polls do not have the capacity to win.

The preconditions — no political affiliations, 20 years of social work, etc. — don’t help either. To top it, candidates also have to support their applications with at least 100 signatures from each Assembly constituency that comes under the parliamentary seat they wish to contest from. “The parameters are very difficult to meet,” a senior Mumbai AAP member admits.

Another problem is that the party doesn’t have an established ideology — so it’s attracting people with no political backgrounds. “People wear a muffler and a Gandhi cap and come to us for a ticket — they think that’s the trademark for getting a ticket,” Madhya Pradesh member Colonel (retd) V.K. Choudhury says.

Some observers, however, believe that AAP may end with a slew of suitable candidates just before the April-May polls. “If they win 50 seats, it will signify that they have arrived. But it is highly unlikely to happen, given the lack of organisational strength of the party,” says Manisha Priyam, ICSSR fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum Library, Delhi.

Wait and watch, party leaders retort. They wowed Delhi; they hope they’ll end up surprising the rest of the country.

Additional reporting by Velly Thevar in Mumbai, Varuna Verma in Bangalore and Sharmistha Das in Calcutta