October 16, 2019
The non-South Asian bartenders are visibly charmed by the warm-up bhangra that’s coming from the DJ booth. They twist their wrists like they’re screwing in lightbulbs; they know enough about desi culture, or have seen enough YouTube, to know that this move is a universal symbol of South Asian dancing. Psychedelic remixes of Bollywood music videos are playing on six huge screens on the wall opposite me, and the ferns that are artfully hung from the ceiling tremble with the pounding music.
I’m at the DL, a club in the Lower East Side. The bouncer waved me in after doing the dutiful ID check; no cover necessary. The club is an open, airy space, and light streams in from the outside. It’s still daylight; this is going to be an early evening party. It will start at around 7:00 pm, and wrap up around midnight, when the non-South Asian crowd filters in and the DJ stops playing, replaced by someone spinning more conventional party music.
I go to the adjacent patio for a cigarette; I bum one from a stocky woman from Karachi who grins and tells me her friends call her “Lucifer.” The conversation I eavesdrop on shifts freely between Hindi and English, the way it does for my parents. Lucifer is telling her friend Aamir Khandwala about her rough romantic history — loyal women are hard to find in Pakistan. We are joined soon by Khandwala's partner, Atif Toor, one of the organizers of this event. Toor and Khandwala just celebrated their 20th anniversary. Or was it their 21st? They can’t remember.