They are a rare sight. Ria, a PhD scholar, and Shilpi, an ad executive, are the only two girls in My Bar. It is a no-frills public house in Paharganj, a locality popular with backpackers.
Ria and Shilpi are not only there, but are smoking and drinking — as uninhibited as the men staring at them. The two women are above 25, the minimum legal age permissible for drinking alcohol. And they have been regulars at this bar since January when it opened. “This place is bloody cheap,” says Ria between sips of Kingfisher beer.
Lighting up her Esse Light cigarette, Shilpi says, “Go to any other bar. Even if you share the bill with friends, you’ll have to shell out Rs 500 each. Not here.”
Delhi's clubbing scene is centred in the south. The clubs range from the classy (Turquoise Cottage, Adhchini) to the languid (The Living Room, Hauz Khas) to… well, pick-up joints. Some clubs are known for their music (Love Hotel, Saket), some for the crowd (expats in Urban Pind, GK-I) and others for the food (Smoke House Grill, GK-II). In all these places, women are as many as men. They are not exotic.
In My Bar, the air-conditioners are ineffective. The TV plays Bollywood music. The crowd is not dressed in high-street new arrivals.
“Office goers and students come here. At night, the place is filled with unwashed foreign backpackers,” says Ria. She lives in Gole Market and came to Paharganj by the Metro. Shilpi arrived straight from the work in Greater Noida. The Ramakrishna Ashram station is a five-minute walk from My Bar.
That’s a long way to come for a drink, but the women think it’s worth it. The bar’s glass door opens into a large room that is long, but not wide. Cover tables are spread lengthwise. The lights are dim. The air is thick with smoke and the stewards wear baseball caps.
On her first visit, Ria left as soon as she stepped in. “Paharganj is not like south Delhi,” she says. “If people see a desi girl walking alone, and she doesn’t seem to be a local, they start giving [her] curious looks.” A few days later, Ria came with a friend, drank the vodka, and started liking the place.
On the menu, the drink ‘Party Shot’, which is 30 ml of whiskey, is listed at Rs 20. A figure of Rs 4 is added next to it to show the additional tax amount. That’s cheap. The minimum price of a whiskey peg in, say, Café Morrison in South Extension, is Rs 200.
“The low prices are our USP,” says Kawaljeet Singh, the bar owner. “You should feel this is your own bar. That’s why we call it My Bar.”
Though the women visit here for the practical reason of drinking on the cheap and ordering from an “honest” menu, the male attention is an inevitable side dish — tolerable as long as it comes in very limited quantities. “We come here for [an] ego massage,” says Ria with an exasperated sigh. Just then the phone rings. “It’s my mother,” says Shilpi. “Say you are at a party,” Ria advises.
For a long time, the television has been showing film songs of Salman Khan. Looking at the screen, Shilpi says, “Salman Khan wearing red pants… you can’t see this in another other club.”
During this evening out, Shilpi had Kingfisher and Smirnoff Orange, and Ria ordered Bacardi Apple. They also had two servings of chilli mushroom. Knackered drinkers coming in after work have the option of daal, chapatti, subzi too. “There is no juice, though,” says Shilpi. “In My Bar, you get what you get. Take it, or leave it.”
Where: 5136, Main Bazaar, Paharganj
Nearest Metro Station: Ramkrishna Ashram
Timing: 11.30 am to 12. 30 am