City Monument – Green Door, Galli Chooriwallan Street
On the death of a door.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Until last week, the beautiful door was there. But not anymore. Nor the old house behind it. A black plastic sheet stands in place of it. A new building is coming up, here in Old Delhi’s Galli Chooriwallan street.
Like in any other city locality, long-existing buildings of the Mughal-era Walled City are being replaced by new ones, even if the pace might be slower. To this day, a casual walk through the historic quarter’s by-lanes reveals a series of stately doorways which, when juxtaposed against contemporary doors as it often is the case, speak persuasively for the architectural aesthetics of an earlier era. Permeated with a rich sense of the past, some of these doorways are overwhelmingly grand, despite languishing in a state of utmost neglect. You can stand for hours in front of them, wondering about the kinds of people who went through over the course of decades, and centuries.
This wooden door in Galli Chooriwallan was the entrance of a well-maintained private house, tucked at one end of a narrow alley. On any day you would find a few scooters parked outside. Painted green, the door gently tapered into an pointed arch built into the yellow house walls. Fans of the cult movie Garam Hawa will notice that this door greatly resembled the one that led to the house of Salim Mirza, the character played by actor Balraj Sahani (the movie was set in Agra though). But you might as well have thought of the classic Twilight in Delhi—in this novel the characters actually live just a few streets away, in Mohalla Niyariyan.
And now the door is history.
This morning a team of sweating dust-covered labourers are placing stacks of bricks onto their bent back and carrying it to the construction site—where the door and the house used to stand just a week ago. A nearby baker talks of a multi-storey flat coming up. “The house belonged to a shopkeeper,” he says.
Preservationists of the past might regret the passing away of the lovely doorway, but the truth is that it remained anonymous throughout its long life. Here is a piece of beauty that, ironically, got better publicity while passing away. Rest in peace.
Gone to past