Woman bouncer pulls no punches in Indian capital

NEW DELHI, July 14 (Reuters) - Joking with clients and colleagues, Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali might be mistaken for any other patron of the Social watering hole in the Indian capital's swanky Hauz Khas neighborhood.

But the intent gaze of her kohl-rimmed eyes, as she stands with arms folded on the edge of the dancefloor in an all-black outfit, watching couples bob and twirl to the music, gives away her real occupation.

She is Social's famous female bouncer.

Mehrunnisha 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, but morphs into a packed club at night.

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Female bouncer smashes stereotypes in India
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Female bouncer smashes stereotypes in India
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali offers her evening prayer during holy month of Ramadan at her house in New Delhi, India, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (2-L) and her sister Tarannum (2-R) have a meal during Eid al-Fitr celebrations at their house in New Delhi, India, June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (C) and her sister Tarannum (L) carry bags after shopping for Eid al-Fitr in New Delhi, India, June 25, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali offers her evening prayer during holy month of Ramadan at her house in New Delhi, India, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali makes "roti" (Indian bread) for lunch at her house in New Delhi, India, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (L) and her sister-in-law buy new clothes for Eid al-Fitr celebrations at a garment shop in New Delhi, India, June 25, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (R) takes a selfie with their family members and a friend during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations in New Delhi, India, June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali checks her mobile phone as she stands outside the club Social in New Delhi, India, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Tarannum (L) a shares a moment with her friend during Eid al-Fitr celebrations at her house in New Delhi, India, June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Shama Parveen, bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali's mother, sits on a chair inside their house during Eid al-Fitr celebrations in New Delhi, India, June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (L) works out at a gym as her sister Tarannum (R) stands by in New Delhi, India, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (R) and her sister Tarannum walk towards taxi after finishing their shift at the clubs where they work, in New Delhi, India, June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man grabs the cheek of bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali at the dance floor of club Social in New Delhi, India, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
People dance at the club Social in New Delhi, India, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A girl poses for the camera with bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (L) at the club Social in New Delhi, India, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (R) laughs with her colleague at the entrance of the club Social in New Delhi, India, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (R) checks a handbag of a girl at the entrance of the club Social in New Delhi, India, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Tarannum stands guard near the dance floor at the club Mafioso in New Delhi, India, June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bouncer Mehrunnisha Shokat Ali (L) and her sister Tarannum eat their Iftar meal during the holy month of Ramadan at the club Social in New Delhi, India, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi SEARCH "DELHI BOUNCER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Now Mehrunnisha is 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 Mehrunnisha," said Social's owner Riyaaz Amlani, who says she helped has defuse innumerable alcohol-fueled quarrels.

"She was fierce and determined, and the rest is history."

The 30-year-old's career highlights include being part of the security detail for Bollywood actresses such as Priyanka Chopra, the star of the U.S. television drama series "Quantico," Preity Zinta and Vidya Balan.

Mehrunnisha is no stranger to smashing stereotypes.

Growing up in a large Muslim family in the northern farming town of Saharanpur, 124 miles 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.

But when her father's stock market losses forced the family to move to the capital, Mehrunnisha, still in college, became the breadwinner 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?" Mehrunnisha 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 ($465) 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 seem to agree.

"If I come here and I see a female bouncer, I feel a lot safer," said one regular patron at Social, Nikita Lamba.

"Mehrunnisha is pretty kick-ass. She is good at what she does."

(Additional reporting by Sunil Kataria; Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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