City Walk – Doors of Vakil Lane, Central Delhi
The lane of doors
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The cracked door has so many long cracks running along so many places that the door is looking like an unironed shirt with creases. The polish on the wood has faded unevenly. The discolouration resembles the patina on a monument’s wall, marking the passage of many seasons.
Despite its dilapidation, the door is clinging to the trappings of its former utility. It is locked. The padlock is brown with rust, and looks so weatherbeaten and mildewed that a passerby’s hard, long gaze might force it to give up any moment, and fall on the ground. A wide split towards the bottom of the door reveals a brick wall behind.
It is a most extraordinarily dysfunctional door, here in central Delhi’s Vakil Lane, a brief walk from Connaught Place. Snuggled in the city’s heart, the road is silent. It has the character of what is known as a service lane, with the rears of houses and apartment complexes facing each other. The stretch has an incredible range of doors. Many are in ruined states, but each is pickled in its unique decay. A couple of them are most beautifully preserved.
Take this wooden door adorning a deserted stone facade. Its white polish has lost most of its whiteness, giving it a grainy texture. The branch of a creeper has covered the upper half like a veil. Close by, an extremely well-kept wooden door marks the back wall of what is obviously an affluent bungalow. The door is sheltered by an awning, and guarded by a potted plant. It is permeated with a feel of beach.
The next door is a piece of metal. It is ugly. An orderly row of carefully cropped plants is making it even more grotesque, and more eye-catching. Another metal door, nearby, has been sieged by wild plants. The breeze is making the leaves tap against the door.
Such surreal looking doors are found across the city, but only this lane has such a dense assortment of these. Some steps ahead, a house wall is fronted with two adjacent doors, one brown and the other green, like a woman in a deliberately mismatched sari and blouse combination. And then there’s a door fenced with money plant creepers. A poster on it says ‘Swagatam.’ This is the only door in this unintended museum of doors that looks welcoming. Knock only if expected.