Let?s get this out of the way upfront: Delhi is definitely not the outest and proudest metropolis in the world. When it comes to exhibiting signs of gay life, Bollywood-infused Mumbai has a coyly exposed (and gorgeously bejeweled) leg up on India?s 17 million-strong capital.
Although homosexual acts are culturally taboo (your taxi driver will ask about ?your wife? multiple times) and officially outlawed (India?s Article 377 makes Proposition 8 look like a parking restriction), Delhi?s ordinarily undercover LGBT community held its first gay pride parade last June and its second annual gay film festival in August. A swiftly rising middle class is pushing 21st-century Delhi forward in all the realms we love -- fashion, art, media, technology, gastronomy -- amid a sprawling cityscape that includes 10th-century Hindu temples, 16th-century Islamic palaces, early-20th-century Raj (British colonial rule) monuments, and what will soon be South Asia?s largest shopping mall.
Delhi?s most delicious shopping secrets, however, can still be found in the labyrinthine Chandni Chowk market in Old Delhi, where crowded stalls sell everything from hand-carved Shiva statues and deep-scented vetiver oils to gaudy silk pashminas and pungent spices. Meanwhile, in New Delhi, once-derelict Connaught Place is in the midst of renewal, with trendy shops, restaurants, and caf?s cropping up in the Raj-era shopping arcades that encircle an airy new subway station. All of this is sufficient salve for any angst that may arise upon discovering there?s just one gay bar in town...and it?s only open on Tuesday night. Of course, you didn?t travel all the way to India for another drink with the gays. Did you?
Pegs ?n? Pints
Chanakya Lane, Chanakyapuri
(behind Akbar Bhawan), New Delhi; +91-11-2687-8320
Delhi?s queer chameleons get karma points for coming out of the closet on this Tuesday-only gay night (the only regular public gay venue outside the city?s cruisy parks). MTV India and Bollywood showstoppers play on a loungy level overlooking the small dance floor.
Hotel Diplomat, 9 Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi; +91-11-4604-0404
Brush shoulders with Bollywood hopefuls and foreign ambassadors (and their rakish offspring) at this whitewashed Mediterranean bar-restaurant in Delhi?s diplomatic enclave. It also boasts a killer wine list (a Delhi rarity).
The Taj Mahal Hotel, 1 Mansingh Road, New Delhi; +91-11-2302-6162
Locals and expats alike converge on this centrally located hotel bar for its posh vibe and imperiously mixed cocktails -- try the guava berry martini. Even if you?re not staying at the hotel, the five-star service staff will make you feel like a distinguished guest -- before hailing you a taxi.
The Tapas Lounge
The Aman New Delhi, Lodhi Road, New Delhi; +91-11-4363-3335
Whether you are staying at the Aman or not, enjoy some vino tinto at the Tapas Lounge, which has become a gathering place for well-heeled locals, ex-pats craving a touch of the west and business men letting off steam after work.
H-27 Outer Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi; +91-11-4151-3940
Together at last: techno music and (mascarpone-stuffed) tandoori chicken! A lavishly decorated nouvelle curry house, Veda (an acronym for Very Exotic Dining Ambiance) is the brainchild (or perhaps drug-induced hallucination) of hard-partying Indian fashion designer Rohit Bal. The fried okra and yam dumplings are mmm, mmm good.
Jama Masjid, Gali Kababian, Old Delhi; +91-11-2326-9880
After bazaar-hopping in Old Delhi?s Chandni Chowk market, ardent materialists can unload piddling pocket change at this inexpensive roadside dhaba (eatery) that serves some of the most reliable Mughlai (northern Indian) cuisine in the city.
Part One | Part Two