We are sitting in charming café. She is a 29-year-old young woman dressed in black from head to toe. She is at work. Meet Mehrunnisa, a lady bouncer from a pub in Hauz Khas area of Delhi. At first glance I wouldn’t even imagine her as a bouncer – that image of a person with a bulky body enough to fend off just by size – for she has lovely features, her hair neatly pulled back, well designed bangs on her forehead, and she is rather gentle in demeanor. She is in this not just for the money, but also the philosophy it fulfils. She has a belief that women should stand up for their own safety. And that’s the inspiration for her to be a bouncer.
Whoever tries to misbehave with girls has to deal with Mehrunissa’s unforgiving conduct. She has beaten many rowdy boys who tried to act – in her words- over-smart with her. The pub that hired her is proud of her work as Mehrunissa is has a sharp eye for mischief, marijuana and such activities.
She loves this job. But it wasn’t easy to be a bouncer. She has to defy norms, argue with family and friends and urge them to support her decision. “I do not think that a bouncer’s job is a disrespectable job. Whoever I tell that I am a bouncer is proud of my job,” said a proud Mehrunnisa. She realizes this role is somewhat unconventional for women but likes to be the few special ones in the field.
“The people at my pub from the guests to the owner to the staff members, they admire me as a lady bouncer.”
She wanted to be a lecturer, but due to some sudden financial conditions she couldn’t pursue her studies and had to leave in between. She is a post-graduate in Hindi Honours from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut. Mehrunnisa regrets not knowing enough of English language, which prevented her from getting a good job in a big city like Delhi.
She had first ventured into a job in sales, but that did not pay well. She was looking for a part-time job to provide for her family and her sister’s three daughters. It’s at this time that she met Lakshmi, an agent working for celebrity events.
“Initially, when I went for my first event I did not know what I was called for. When I reached there, I got to know that I was called to be a security guard. Then Lakshmi told me that these people are called bouncers.”
I was shocked by the thought that after studying so much and all I will be working as a guard!
Lakshmi showed her the black dress (a black collared shirt and black trouser) and convinced her for the job. After that, there was no looking back. She has escorted some of the Bollywood’s biggest celebrities like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar etc at different events.
But her stint in events was shortlived, especially since it was more like a freelance career than a stable monthly job. But things changed when she faced a personal crisis. Some years ago her father’s business went bust and both her parent suffered from heart attacks. “Hum unko Delhi lekar aaye aur Safdarjung hospital mein admit karwaya. Sab bohot tension mein the aur aisa lag raha tha jaise sab khatam ho gya ho (We brought them to Delhi and admitted them in Safdarjung Hospital. We were so tensed and it felt like everything was over). She knew she had to find a job and support her parents. But the days ahead had more bad news.
“My sister went to meet my father and she too met with an accident. Both her legs got cut. Because of this, her husband left her with their three children and I was the only one left to take care of them,” shares Mehrunissa.
It was around now that Mehrunissa found a job at Social in Hauz Khas and is content with her role as a bouncer. She cannot stop praising her boss Riyaz, Owner of the pub, and the entire staff, who she says, respect girls very much. Being a bouncer here has also exposed her to the next generation woman, one who likes to party.
Mehrunnisa asserts that people should not judge the girls who go to drink or party. “They come here to have a good time. As men come here, so do women. It is an equal place.” (translated from Hindi)
”People say clubs are a bad place for girls, but I will say that girls are as much respected even in clubs as boys,” insists Mehrunissa.
Not only has her new avatar made her more aware, and broadminded, she believes her role has brought back dignity to her distraught life. Women and men admire her guts and doff their hats to her work. Mehrunissa says she never thought that she would ever get as much admiration by people as she gets as a lady bouncer.