Over 200 bulging men leave behind their tiny Indian village every night to turn into modern musclemen to watch over the capital’s nightclubs.
Many are baffled why so many of the bouncers in New Delhi’s Gurgaon district hail from this small dusty village on the outskirts of the city.
While the majority of the village work on their inherited farmlands almost half of the 20-something men commit every day in the gym to build the physique needed to guard the city’s top nightclubs and hotels as well as look after the rich.
Bouncer and security man, Vikram Tanwar, 25, who was born and raised in Fatehpur Beri village, abandoned his family’s hopes of him completing college to follow the local craze of being a bodybuilder full time.
He said: ‘I had watched men with muscular bodies go to work in the city since I was a boy. I wanted the same. I didn’t want to work on any farm or in a boring government job or struggle with menial work, bodybuilding was the answer to better things for us.’
The married father-of-two boys hits the gym for two hours every morning before tending to his family and daily duties and going to work in the evenings.
In a day he scoffs two litres of milk, 12 eggs, 12 bananas, four plates of rice with vegetables, a loaf of bread and 2kg of apples.
I had watched men with muscular bodies go to work in the city since I was a boy. I wanted the same
He said: ‘Being a bouncer has not only brought me and my family good money but it’s also been a lot of fun, especially when I think of the sorts of people I get to meet.’
Vikram didn’t marry for love, he was married to a local girl in an arrangement dealt with by his parents, but working at nightclubs 10kms away from his village has meant he meets all types of women, very different to the women he’s used to in his community.
‘Men aren’t even allowed to look at girls in my village never mind talk to them. Our parents choose our wives for us. Love and lust doesn’t happen before marriage in our conservative community.
‘But life in these nightclubs is so different – the girls are in skimpy clothes and they see our bodies and they’re all over us,’ Vikram added. ‘I could take any one I liked out on a date if I wanted. My wife doesn’t like it; she’s never liked me working in the nightclubs; so now I never tell her anything; it’s a lot easier. But she trusts me.’
Vikram and the 200 plus men who work as bouncers are all part of the Gujjar caste, which has traditionally been a pastoral community and known for it’s burly physiques.
As New Delhi turned into a cosmopolitan city ten years ago and western hotels, nightclubs and bars began to sprout up; the need grew for the security of muscular strong men.
One of the first bouncers to come from Fatehpur Beri village, Vijay Pehelwan, 40, remembers how the craze began.
He said: ‘Men in this village have always taken part in the traditional Indian wresting called Akhara and always been strong so when news spread of club owners calling for big men to help in the city we began to offer our services.
‘Then it became a job. Soon it was a well paid job and men preferred to earn good money being a muscleman than working the farms like their fathers before them.’
Men in this village have always taken part in the traditional Indian wresting
Vijay, who now owns his own agency providing bouncers for film shoots, nightclubs and weddings, believes this vocation has been a positive for the number of illiterate men who had no chance of finishing school and getting an educated job.
He added: ‘Most of the men in this village are illiterate but they have strong muscular bodies and are good sportsmen. They can’t do anything else so this job is perfect for them.’
Raj Tanwar, 26, owns the local gym called Rinku The Gym, and he has almost 300 members all vying to become bouncers one day.
He said: ‘These men have got it in their genes. They only need to do a few hours of weights a week and they’re huge. I’ve seen it, it comes very naturally to their bodies.’
He said that most of the men spend around 15,000 Rs (£150) a month on average on their diet and gym costs, out of their 25,000 Rs a month salary (£250).
These men have got it in their genes. They only need to do a few hours of weights a week and they’re huge
Raj added: ‘These guys don’t want to work as farmers and they’d never get a government or semi-government job, so bodybuilding is the answer for them. And they don’t have to work every day, many only work a few nights a week.’
Another bouncer, Parveen Sharma, 27, said he knew he’d become a bodybuilder ever since he used to oil his uncle’s bodybuilding muscles as a boy.
He said: ‘If you’re skinny in this village you’re a joke. No one wants to be an embarrassment. We all crave some respect.’
But the job of a bouncer is not always a respectful one. Parveen has seen the unfortunate negatives of working as a bouncer in Delhi’s bright lights.
‘We get into a lot of fights. Once we had to fight hundreds of villagers who were trying to enter a club without paying. Seeing the size of us they eventually backed down but then they came back and started firing guns in the air to scare us. It didn’t work though.
And Vikram will only carry on working as a bouncer until he’s saved enough money to invest in a secure long-term business.
He said: ‘I can’t do this job forever. And one day I’ll hopefully have enough money to start a good business. But it will never stop. All the young boys in the area are already talking about joining the local gym. I don’t want my sons to be bouncers but I’m sure there will be many more generations of bodybuilders and bouncers to come out of this village. Why would it stop?’
Local fruit seller Munna Choudhury, 47, moved to Asola Fatehpur village from Bihar because he’d heard of the number of bodybuilders buying bananas. The huge number of banana sales has helped him buy a house.
He said: “I’ve been selling fruit here for last 17 years and thanks to these boys from the gym I sell at least 50 dozen bananas and 30 kg of apples a day.
‘They may look scary because of their physique but they’re gentlemen. They’re good men. And thanks to them my children receive a good education.’