ADUSTY TWILIGHT IS SETTLING OVER GURGAON. Our rickshaw hits every possible pothole on the slip road as we pass rows of boxy shopping centres enticingly calling out to their weekend patrons, who have turned out in packs. Sunantha Laxmi and I plunge headlong into oncoming traffic, dodging a torrent of craters and cars.
Earlier that evening I’d met Sunantha at Gurgaon’s packed Sahara Mall. Sporting a poker-straight bright blonde-orange bob, green pants and a laptop bag on her shoulder, she stood awkward and guarded behind an arrangement of large flowerpots that looked onto the lobby of the mall where families pushed children into playpens, couples surreptitiously convened at Café Coffee Day and late-evening shoppers began their escapades. The beginning of her workday marked the end of everyone else’s, and the guarded look she wore had become second nature—now 22, Sunantha has been a resident DJ at a local club since she was 19.
We head towards Megacity Mall, the location of the resto-bar Vapour at which Sunantha is a junior resident DJ. On the ride over she keeps up an incessant stream of chatter as I try hard to hold on to my seat. She tells me about the autowala who takes her to and from work for her ungodly 6 pm to 3 am night shift. In an area where skirmishes, drunken or sober, are regularly settled at gunpoint, it’s scary to think of this petite girl unarmed on the roads of Gurgaon.