New Money, New Parties — and New Clashes

Through the cigarette smoke and above the thump of the subwoofers at the base of the stage, Manu Ananth looked out at the crowd seated in chairs. He saw heads bobbing and bodies swaying to the Indian trance music he sang. But nobody would get up. Nobody was dancing.

"It's really irritating when people aren't standing up because they're not allowed to," Ananth says a few weeks after that Bangalore show, which featured his band Tatva Kundalini. "It's a fundamental right to dance. How can they stop me from dancing? It's my body."

The crowd of a few hundred fans didn't dance because of a law passed by the local government: Dance in a club, and you could be arrested.

This is part seven in's 10-part special series on nightlife around the world. Click here every weekday through May 9, 2008 for the latest story.

A thousand miles away, 24-year-old Arshi Uppal sits with her legs crossed on the roof of Urban Pind, a club in a wealthy section of New Delhi. She wears a short leopard-print dress and gold flats, her red martini on the table in front of her and a cigarette burning slowly in her hand.

"What do we do on the weekends?" she asks, repeating the question. "Party on Saturday. Party on Sunday. Party through the week. There isn't a day without a party."

For young India, for modern India, there's no shortage of imported liquor, imported drugs and parties with imported themes that were restricted to five-star hotels just a few years ago. But there is also great conflict between the abandonment of tradition by the young rich and the conservative values of the older generation.

Nick Shiffrin/ABC News

It's a conflict that is shaping India's next generation -- whether it will be allowed to spend more and wear less in clubs with Kama Sutra sculptures on the walls, or have to cope with laws that forbid dancing.

"Young people choosing to do drugs, have sex openly -- that's always threatening for a system that wants to keep control," Ananth, a 34-year-old singer and potter, told ABC News. "People are threatened with the young saying, 'I'm really pissed off with your world.' That's not something people want to know."

But spend time in Delhi's upscale bars -- where drinks can cost $15, cover charges top out at $40, and young women clutch designer handbags as they find ways to dance three nights a week -- and it appears that India has already chosen its path.

Nick Shiffrin/ABC News

"Three to four years ago, you walked out with a spaghetti dress, you'd be stared at," says Uppal, a public relations agent. "Now there's kissing in the streets. You can wear whatever you want. You can do whatever you want. It's just normal now."

The Young and the Restless

Pub-hopping in Bangalore, one 20-something Indian was inspired to smoke. He and his friends, he says, were "sloshed," and headed to an area called Hoskote for what he calls the "best weed around."

"We bought enough for the group and started rolling joints underneath the street lamp," he says, refusing to be identified by name.

All of a sudden six police cars pulled up, sirens blazing.

After a long discussion, the police officers agreed to let them go for the equivalent of $50.

"'OK boys,'" he says, quoting the police officers. "'We know you're young. We know you're here to party. But there's a time and place for everything. And next time you want to smoke weed, don't do it on the top of your car.'"

India's middle- and upper-middle classes are now nearly as large as the entire U.S. population. They have never been richer, and they have never been more exposed to the West.

"This country is at an unbelievable moment," Ananth says. "Everything is available simultaneously. Lots of young people are waking up to it, finding ways to express their freedom. Expressing love, mischief, hanging out. It's a product of a society that's in a transformative stage."

Still, 800 million people here still live on the equivalent of less than $2 a day, according to the government.

But for the rich, the country is transforming into a bastion of capitalism and luxury. If the current growth rate continues in India, the average household income will triple in the next 20 years.

Armani and Ferarri are both about to make grand entrances into the Indian market. Louis Vuitton recently signed an agreement with an Indian company, the first non-European brand it's ever invested in. And India is already the world's third-largest buyer of Gucci, according to AC Nielsen.

"Delhi's all about showing it and blowing it," says 24-year-old Mohit Panicker, Arshi Uppal's husband, as the two of them sit smoking a hooka. "The saying here is that 'If I have 10,000 in my pocket tonight, we're spending 9,000," he says, referring to Indian rupees, the equivalent of about $250.

"He'll actually spend 11,000," Uppal jokes.

Nick Shiffrin/ABC News

Kashif Farooq thinks he knows what his generation wants. He opened Urban Pind three years ago when he was just 25. He says he was the youngest club owner in Delhi's history.

"I've been born to re-create Delhi's night life," he says with a smile. Then he kisses a woman known as the duchess of Delhi as she walks by (she's Dutch). One of Delhi's only female bartenders (illegal until recently) buys him a drink.

Farooq knows he's arrived at a lucky time.

"Five years back, you wouldn't find a woman smoking on the street. You wouldn't find a woman smoking in a bar," he says, surrounded by women smoking at his bar. "I'm very lucky that I'm born now. If I were born 20 years later, I wouldn't have anything to do."

That's because he believes the scene is becoming saturated -- diluted by clubs with names like 6 Month Story and Indochine. There have never been more opportunities to drink and smoke, any night of the week.

Time May Change Me, But I Can Still Trace Time

On a Saturday night outside of 6 Month Story, a club about 30 minutes south of central New Delhi, girls in checkered dresses and Coco Chanel bags wait for their chauffeured SUVs to arrive.

A cow walks by at 12:30 a.m., seemingly uninterested in the house music coming out of the white building guarded by bouncers.

Inside, an eastern European woman is dancing in a sports bra and tight pants. Indian women wear short skirts and short heels. Couples from Delhi dance closely, but not as they would in the West. There is still a level of modesty on the dance floors here that has long disappeared from the clubs in Manhattan and London.

"Before I got married, I wasn't allowed to stay up past 10 p.m.," says Uppal. She and Panicker have been married for four months. Before that, they both lived with their parents, and her family didn't know she was dating him until they wanted to get married.

It is almost impossible in India to meet a young single woman who lives by herself. But today, unlike in the past, clubs here are filled with young single women drinking and smiling at men.

"In the West, the understanding of the world is that 'I'm supposed to grow up quickly and be an independent hero, riding around, doing it all alone,'" Ananth says. In India, "we have a communal mind-set.… But with such a Westernized world that we're living in, at some level I have to be able to survive in that world."

The delicate imbalance India sometimes fails to strike between embracing the Western world and holding onto tradition can be seen in Uppal's family.

Her cousin, she explained, grew up in the Punjab, the Indian state north of New Delhi where most Sikh families live. The state is one of the most rural and also one of the most chauvinistic.

"My cousin ran away from home because of a love marriage," Uppal shares. "When she got back to her village, she was killed. There are parts of our country like that. And there are parts of our country like this."

"This" is the Greater Kailash area of Delhi, just a few hundred miles away from her cousin's village. Uppal sits comfortably next to her husband, whom she fell in love with in college. They are surrounded by friends, drinking, smoking, carefree.

"Our generation, we are actually becoming modern," says 21-year-old Vaidehi Sharma.

Sharma spends her weekends at SmokeHouse Grill, a posh but relatively understated club and restaurant. She points out that it has to close at 1 a.m. by law. There are clubs that stay open later, but they are few and far between.

"The mind-set of the young people is changing," she says. "But it won't change for our parents."