This Company Is Helping Gay Men Travel in India

Mister and Art House is India’s first lodging catering to gay men.

The Mister and Art House is the first guesthouse in India created exclusively for gay men. Started in 2013, just south of New Delhi, India, by fashion designer and entrepreneur Sanjay Malhotra, the boutique hotel is located in a prime neighborhood of the city and, in addition to accommodation, offers other services, including cooking classes, in-room massages, and relaxation and spiritual experiences.

The initiative to create a bed and breakfast for gay and bisexual men came about when Malhotra, accustomed to traveling around the world, noticed the scarcity of accommodation for this demographic in his home country of India. At Mister and Art House, gay men can feel at ease whether alone or with their boyfriends–they won’t have to pretend to be straight, or friends traveling together, or have concerns about asking for a double bed, as can happen in certain lodging located in countries without a strong LGBTQ+ tourist industry. The staff at Mister and Art House are gay or bisexual, as are the tour guides and drivers, with the intention of making the (mostly Western) guests feel that they are in an inclusive space.

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The rooms are pleasant, with antique furniture, wood carvings, and erotic paintings. In fact, many of these items are for sale, as the hotel also functions as an art gallery. The lobby, named Nirvana, got its appellation from its calm atmosphere, with decorative candles and rare sculptures welcoming guests. There are only five rooms in different categories with king-sized antique beds, air conditioning, and Italian marble bathroom floors. Personalized services can also be requested from the guesthouse, including candlelit dinners, Indian cooking classes, massages, holistic therapies, guided cultural/heritage walks, and even a private yoga retreat. The hotel also offers an honesty bar, where the customer serves themselves at will and then informs reception of the items consumed.

Indjapink and India’s Burgeoning Gay Scene

India’s gay scene is still mostly discreet. Before opening the men’s lodge, Sanjya Malhotra set up the first travel agency, Indjapink, for gay men in India. The focus is on tailor-made luxury travel for gay singles or couples.  The agency works with LGBTQ+-friendly operators so that travelers are more comfortable. At the same time, it aims to show an authentic experience of Indian culture.

The travel itineraries created by the agency are customized according to the client’s demands, offering accommodation, drivers, tour guides, restaurants, tours, shopping, and spas anywhere in the country. 

Homosexuality was criminalized in the country until 2018, when India’s Supreme Court lifted this law. This represented an important step forward for the Indian LGBTQ+ community in its quest for equality and respect in a society that is still conservative but moving toward change. The country has gradually opened up with the development of legislation, including hosting an LGBTQ+ film festival called Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Pride (usually held in November), and even a gay sauna. Pointed out as the largest gay men’s spa in the country, The Hammam has 2,500 sq ft of space divided between a collective hot tub, steam room, darkroom, massage, and other facilities. Although it’s not very common in India, what sets it apart from other gay saunas in the United States and Europe, for example, are the aesthetic body treatments offered.

Despite all the challenges, there has been an increase in LGBTQ+ activism in India via organizations working to raise awareness and reduce discrimination. Although the country’s capital, New Delhi, is more receptive to the queer community, in other parts of India, the local culture can still be a little more traditionalist.

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