Where's the party tonight? Gays now have choices

Gays only parties provide a comfortable setting for homosexual men to meet

It is a little over 9.30 on a Thursday evening. The usual zing is missing from the upscale GK 2.

At the end of the road at Rara Avis restaurant, the diners browse through the menu.
They clink the wine glasses to do justice to the French meal.
On the restaurant’s terrace, the party just starts gaining momentum: free drinks for entry between 9.30-10 pm.

Huddled together, a few people chat in a corner of the terrace. Some others are seen solo.

There are students, call centre employees, businessmen and stylists at the gathering. Only one factor brings them together here: their being gay men.

The invitation is sent through social networking sites like Facebook and PlanetRomeo – a website which brings together gay, bisexual and transgender men.
The venue is little known for hosting gay parties in the city. The more popular ones are some restaurants in Ansal Plaza and Connaught Place.

“These venues have been hosting gay parties for over eight years now. When I attended these parties, I realised most of these places were congested and had little open space. Something was missing,” says Jerome, the French co-owner of the restaurant.

Jerome’s initiative of holding an open-air gay party is about a month-old. The area is dimly lit with a huge dance floor.

Free drinks
Giving free drinks to those who enter between 9.30-10 pm is to set the party mood at the venue, he explains. “My venue is still little known. This helps gather crowd,” he explains.

Those attending the party have different reasons: for a few it is a great “hook-up zone” and for others just another party to unwind before they return to the closet.
Several men attending the parties are married and looking for partners outside it, says Jerome.

“I told my parents I am going to a friend’s place and will be late. When you attend these parties you look for networking in your community. Or people you might have met online,” says Gaurav*, 25.

Munching on a mini-pizza, he says “all hell will break loose” if his parents find out he is attending gay parties.

With several gay men relying on websites to find partners, these parties are opportunities to know them before going any further in a relationship.

“There are times when a person trying to hook up lies to the other person or creates fake profiles on the website. At these parties you can meet people in real,” says Jerome, who came to India 13 years back.

But hosting gay parties is not a viable business model.
“This is not a revenue generating model. Hosting these parties cannot be sustained over a long period,” says Rajiv Aheja, co-owner at the restaurant.

He cites examples of venues which have stopped hosting these parties.
Jerome feels more optimistic on running the once-a-week gay party on a “no-profit, no-loss” basis.

“If we keep the rates higher than this, the student community will have to give these parties a miss.”

For a beer with around five varieties of free pass-around snacks, one has to shell out Rs 300 here.

Why a gay party?

Word about the party spreads fast through “friends of friends” when they find the venue “safe and comfortable”.

“We feel safe here. There is nobody to make passes or glance to make us feel uncomfortable,” says Pradeep, 34.

He says he is going through a rough patch in his relationship. “This party was a last-minute plan. My friend said this will help take my mind off my relationship.” His friend Vipin mumbles the parties help “relieve minds”.

Most men at the party agree that gay parties are where they “feel in their skin” without being harassed with “derogatory terms” like at other parties.
Here, they can also take to the dance floor in the “chamiya” style without attracting eyeballs.

The dance movements with their partners can be intimate and nobody would really mind.

As Ankit, 20, quietly sips beer at a corner with his friend, he says there is more to look forward to the parties than just treating them as a place to find dates.
“We come here to meet like-minded people, have conversations and enjoy ourselves. I have a steady partner and am not here to get hitched,” says Ankit.

He adds his partner is at home bogged down with office work. As he drags the friend accompanying him to the dance floor, the remix version of “Chitiya Kalaiya” grows louder.

As the clock ticks, the party gathers pace. More people start coming in. The dance floor becomes crowded.
A few continue to enjoy the solo time at the terrace corners.
*Name changed

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