Home Sweet Home – Staircase to Heaven, South Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Staircases are surely one of the great human inventions though there is no knowing just when the world’s first staircase was built. Neither is it clear which civilisation came up with the radical idea to build something for easily navigating a vertical distance. In modern times, the proliferation of lifts and escalators has made the very idea of staircase a bit dated. Even so, seedhiyaan continue to be built as emergency fire exits and similar such utilitarian necessities. It’s easy to forget that these functional stairs can also be things of incredible beauty. Such as the grand stairway at L’Opéra in Paris or, closer to home, the sweep of stairs at the Polish Ambassador’s residence in Delhi (the latter has already been featured in these pages).
But arguably the most beautiful staircase in our capital is this winding climb in a private south Delhi residence. For obvious reasons, not very many of us can view it first-hand. But the very fact it exists at all is good to know.
The magic begins on stepping inside the lobby. You can let your eyes trace the entire three-storey route from the ground floor, with steps ascending in soft rounded angles. Each stair-rise is sculpted deep down into the bottom side of the twisting pathway — this makes the staircase look like an accordion stretched out to its full length. In effect, the swirly structure has a dreamlike appearance, rather like a creamy wedding cake. Or it could be a scene straight out of an epic tragedy, where some hapless Anna Karenina is suddenly spotted running down in great haste.
The banister itself is supported by a railing shaped like molluscs linked to each other in a never-ending chain. The sight is exquisite. No wonder then that the bookish residents on the top floor refer to this “geometrical marvel” as their “Stairway to Heaven.” They identify it with Jacob’s Ladder, that famous ladder to paradise which appeared in a Biblical patriarch’s dream.
All this connection to jannat is fine but is this staircase actually used?
The residence does have an elevator. This means the sweeping masterpiece isn’t relegated to the mundane purpose of going up and down and can be considered primarily as what it truly is— a work of art.
Because the staircase is more than just a fire exit