City Landmark – A Disappearing Doorway, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
A beauty from the past.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It will be a great pity to walk right past that peeling cobwebbed doorway, padlocked for years, without giving it a close second look. This is an architectural masterpiece reminiscent of an old way of building homes. Located in the historic enclave of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, the door is flanked on either side by a picturesque taak—a disappearing element in domestic architecture where a niche is scooped into the wall for storing household knick-knacks or perhaps earthen lamps for night time.
The Basti itself was once crammed with aged weather-beaten homes with similar doorways. Only a few of them remain—disappearing so gradually to make way for modern housing that locals here usually fail to register the loss.
Nor do they usually notice this pale-green door itself which stands out like a beautiful haiku. And covered with what seems like a patina left behind by the passage of so many decades. These cobwebbed strings on the door latch, like silken gossamers, extend right up to the rugged dilapidated walls of the house, believed to have been built about a century ago, according to its owner, shopkeeper Aleem Ahmad. He says his family left the house for an adjacent apartment about a decade ago ‘because it got too old.”
This evening a scooter with a torn seat is parked outside the door as citizens file past without pausing to approve the doorway’s exquisite beauty. But, wisdom suggests it might be wise to give it an admiring inspection sooner rather than later. In a world of sometimes less tasteful modernisation one never knows how long an architectural elegance from the past will last. Its viewing becomes particularly urgent because the aforementioned owner plans to “replace the house with a new building soon.”
A souvenir in architecture