New Delhi: With a valiant gaze, Mehrunnisa Shokat Ali stands with arms folded on the edge of the dance floor in an all-black outfit, not for twirling but for guarding female customers of a restaurant – ‘Social’
Muslim female bouncer, Mehrunnisa, has been a bouncer for nearly a decade, and for the last three years, has done 10-hour night shifts at ‘Social’, which functions as a restaurant and co-working space seating 220 people by day.
After spending an era on the field, Mehrunnisa has turned out be an expert in breaking up bar fights, frisking female customers, and uncovering illegal drugs.
“We decided to employ women to make sure that women customers too felt safe, and we found a great match in Mehrunnisa,” said Social’s owner Riyaaz Amlani, who says she has helped in innumerable alcohol-fuelled quarrels.
“She was fierce and determined, and the rest is history”
Mehrunnisa, 30, grew up in a large Muslim family in the northern farming town of Saharanpur, 200 km from Delhi, she dreamed of joining the army or becoming a police officer, but her deeply conservative father opposed the idea. Only her mother’s insistence allowed her to further her education beyond primary school thus breaking stereotypes.
But when her father’s stock market losses forced the family to move to the capital, Mehrunnisha, still in college, became the bread winner for a household consisting of parents, two sisters, and her elder sister’s three children, besides herself.
“Several times my brother has asked me, what sort of a job is this?” Mehrunnisa said during a shopping expedition to prepare for Eid al-Fitr, which ends the holy month of Ramadan, recounting how difficult it had been to get her family to accept her night shifts. “But this does not affect me, because my mother and father have faith and confidence in me, and I know I am not doing anything wrong.”
Her younger sister, Tarannum, 27, also works as a bouncer at a bar just a 5-minute walk away from her own workplace. Together, they earn 30,000 rupees a month. They take immense pride in their vocation, spending up to an hour at the gym each day to build their strength, and even working through holidays.
“I am very proud of what I do, it’s not an easy job,” Mehrunnisha said. “Taking care of people, especially women in a club, is a very big responsibility.”
Customers appreciate their presence. “If I come here and I see a female bouncer, I feel a lot safer,” said one regular patron at Social, Nikita Lamba.
“Mehrunnisa is pretty kick-ass. She is good at what she does,” another customer said