Event aims to give South Asian LGBTQ people in DFW a chance to celebrate in a comfortable atmosphere
TAMMYE NASH | Managing Editor
Living openly and proudly as an LGBTQ person can be a very difficult prospect for many people, especially those who are living far away from home and the culture and customs they are used to. South Asian LGBTQ people living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, for example, often find themselves faced with two options when they want to go out: They can either go to an LGBTQ venue where they can be open about their sexuality and/or gender identity but find none of their culture, or they can go to a South Asian-focused venue where they are surrounded by their culture but likely are not comfortable being openly LGBTQ.
Vishal Rajpal is looking to change that.
Chameli Night — Aao Kabhi Haveli Pe, Saturday, Aug. 5, 9 p.m., at Alexandre’s, 4026 Cedar Springs Road. Presented by Vishal Rajpal with Masala Nights, and featuring music by DJ Mini, drumming by Soni Dholi, drag performance by Noor Janah and others, bellydancers and more. Tickets are $20 if purchased by July 29, or $22 if purchased by Aug. 4 and $32 if purchased the day of the event, available only at masala-nights.ticketleap.com.
Rajpal, who is from “a very small town” in India, moved to Texas in 2014 to get his masters. Not long after he moved here, Rajpal said, he was introduced to a group of LGBTQ people in the South Asian community. (“When we say the South Asian community we mean people who trace their origins to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma,” he explained.) The group’s primary focus, Rajpal said, is to “make a safe space where people can be themselves without being afraid,” through small meet-ups and other opportunities to mingle with other LGBTQ South Asians and to educate themselves and other people.
“A lot of these people are still in the closet. They don’t really have anybody who supports them, who tells them it is ok to be gay or lesbian,” he said.
Unfortunately, the group has been “slowly diminishing. It’s activities are diminishing,” Rajpal said. “I’m not the president of the group or anything; I am just a part of it. But one day, I realized I wanted to do something.”
That something, he said, is a Bollywood party he has planned for Saturday night, Aug. 5, at Alexandre’s.
“Everybody else has their own bars,” Rajpal said, referring to the Black and Latino LGBTQ communities. “So why don’t we [South Asians] have something somewhere?
“Lots of straight clubs have Bollywood nights like this, but those are not places, really, where LGBTQ people can be comfortable being themselves,” he continued. “I recently went to a club where the DJ for my event was playing so I could get video of her working. My friend who was there told me everyone was staring at me. I don’t care; it doesn’t bother me. But a lot of people don’t have that kind of confidence.”
Rajpal said he first starting thinking about staging a Bollywood night party about two years ago, if not longer. “But I was married at the time when I first thought of it, and my husband was not very supportive,” he explained.
After getting divorced, however, he put his plans into high gear, contacting Alexandre’s owner Lee Daugherty through a bartender at the club. Daugherty responded immediately and enthusiastically.
“I really want to thank Lee for everything,” Rajpal said. “This was really just a very vague idea I had, and he has been very helpful in making this happen. He is very excited about it, and I am really happy to have met him.”
Right now, the goal is to hold this event and make it a success, and then plan other events on a regular basis moving forward, he said.
“We have such a rich culture,” Rajpal said. “We have approximately 35 different languages in the South Asian culture. Every city has a different food. Each city is unique.
“For a lot of people, when they think of ‘Bollywood,’ they just think of the cows and of poverty. But the South Asian countries are so much more than that. I don’t really know the best way to convey that message, but I want to do something to educate people about who we are.”