Dear all,

Forwarding this response from Priya Sen on the article by Mayank Austen Soofi.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Priya Sen <>
Date: Nov 29, 2007 10:11 AM
Subject: A response to Mayank Austen Soofi's "Secret Life of Gays in New Delhi"


Dear Mayank,

I chanced upon your piece, "Secret Life of Gays in New Delhi"
( and had to read it through for
so many reasons. First your title, ofcourse. I for one, have never
been able to understand why "gay" is used as a noun - I thought it was
a descriptive term. Never mind. And then "secret", which is always a
sure shot way to grab my attention, and it did. And I couldn't wait to
hear what you had to say about a life, very much like my own, and so
far from being as fabulously mysterious as I would like it to be! I
was ofcourse in shock by the time I reached the first line. Lets see.
I'm wondering why homosexuality had to be summoned alongside such
reprehensible acts such as murder and rape, and why it couldn't for
example be clubbed with say - piracy and illegal hawking maybe! So
much more commonplace and identifiable (and totally illegal too), if
that was your intention. Maybe it wasn't.

Pegs N Pints is a place close to my heart. I love it, I hate it, I
want them to change their music, I laugh at its location opposite
Haryana Bhavan, and I'm delighted that it shares a compound with a
wedding venue. (Did you know that? You should go see the queens and
aunties flaunting their stuff. Very competitive and not half as
surprising and questionable as you might imagine!) It's a dive for
god's sake! Who cares about the scratched wooden counter and the
chipped beer glasses! It's too dark anyway - not unlike every other
(gay / straight / mixed) club I've been to in many places in the
world. And making that the setting for the sleaze you so astutely
observed, to unfold, and for the incognito underbelly to shake more
than a leg, seems a bit unimaginative if I may say so.

And yet I'm none of those people you happened to observe on the (one?)
night you were there. Because I'm a girl!  And not straight. And I go
there very often. And I wish to be included in the smokiness and
cruisiness and nymphiness.

But that isn't why I'm writing this.

I'm writing this because I don't think you understand why a place like
Pegs N Pints is important. And fragile, and precious, and vulnerable.
I looked and looked for a moment of irony in your piece - something to
indicate that you were more than just convinced by the tone of your
own piece ( I can relate to getting carried away by ones own
dramaturgy.. it's deeply satisfying to be able to get the
mise-en-scene right!), and not loathed to identifying with any of
those splendid human beings you described. (Were you standing on the
balcony?) But sadly I found none. All I saw - and saw, partly because
of your talent for description and partly because I can see PNP with
my eyes closed - was a disturbing, semi-disclosed, shadowy, murky
image of a place reeking of misplaced desire and overflowing with
oversexed, depraved, and perhaps murderous homosexuals. And very
importantly, the "certain Mr. David", is one of my favourite
characters from mythology, my own private urban-legend, and I love him
and please don't implicate him in your version of Desperado.

In fact, the last thing we need is to conjure up an image that looks
alarmingly like the ones in the heads of those who feel this crazy
Section 377 should still be here.

The only line that made me sense you for a moment, as a boy amongst
other boys on the dance floor, maybe even enjoying the pulsating and
gyrating and jiggling, was - "He seemed unattainable". But maybe
that's me projecting my wild ideas of temperance and trying to stop
this near orgy from imploding on itself before we all get off! And I
mean that in every sense that you might want to consider. It was a
profound moment of looking back at oneself to me.

It takes a lot of work and an unfathomable amount of time for people
to even start to think of suspending judgement and for a space like
this to come into being. It takes no time for it to be undone. Just
think of how little it will take for PNP to be forever closed. It
doesn't take rocket science does it, to figure that one out? I
appreciate the tension and drama that you have managed to communicate,
and the recognizable edge that many queer people find themselves at -
especially in public places, whatever the parameters of public might
be - that you have alluded to in your piece.  I was into the desire
bit too, but somehow it was set up for me in a way that made me seek
salvation anywhere else but at PNP. And I didn't understand that. It
was confusing. And PNP is never confusing. It is what it is. And it
isn't what you say it is.

And the Cloak of Sleaze that you have so generously adorned the
happy/happy-sad PNP goers with, somehow doesn't fit everyone right.
There are sizes and sizes as you know. I think sleaze is definitely
worth reclaiming, but I worry that if I do, it will undoubtedly have
to change itself for me. And I am uncomfortable about doing that.

But that's another discussion, if ever.

Meanwhile, I think you should definitely do a follow-up night out
there. This time go on a Friday night. When it's straight. I would
love to read what you have to say about that!

Yours in-faith-in PNP and everything,
Priya Sen

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