City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

City Monument – Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

Remnant of a place.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The doorway’s ledge is arrayed out into carved ripples of multifarious designs. An arch adorns the top. The wall is of old-fashioned lakhori bricks, arranged in a slanting pattern, as if these were rays emanating out from a morning sun. The only element looking odd is a modern doorbell, crisscrossed with malaidar strands of cobweb.

The dilapidated Old Delhi doorway is unusually rich in artistic details. In fairer weather, this lane in Bulbuli Khana receives a modest share of travellers heading to the famous tomb around the corner, believed to be of Empress Razia Sultan. The beautiful doorway however doesn’t receive many eyeballs. And this afternoon it is so unbearably hot thot that the entire lane is deserted, except for a cheerful goat apparently oblivious to the day’s oppressive heat. Otherwise even Wasim Bhai’s popular next-door tea stall is without a single customer, though a great amount of chai is furiously bubbling over in a chipped pan on the stove.

The doorway’s dereliction paints it as a portal to some vanished world. But within, life exists. A darkened room is home-cum-workshop to two young labourers. Wasim Akram is busy on a “punch machine,” bulk-manufacturing what he calls “jhunjhuna” for children. It comprises of a plastic road fitted with small metallic disks that jingle when the rod is shaken. The other fellow in the room is his colleague and fellow roomie—Omar is lying on.the matted floor, eyes closed, arms crossed on the chest, his long black hair stirring in the table fan breeze.

Despite the sweltering exteriors, the room is remarkably cool. A large window is permanently shut with slim wooden panes, a flash of white glare from the lane outside is lying frozen along a long narrow gap between the two panes. Elsewhere in the room, the discoloured walls are scrawled with mobile phone numbers—of previous “labourers” who lived here, explains Wasim Akram. He and his colleague have been residing here for three years, employed by a “maalik.”

Outside the doorway, the street’s sun-soaked silence is momentarily interrupted by the hoarse cry of recycler Nasir Bhai—“Kabadi wale, kabadi wale.” Moments later, Wasim Akram emerges out for a brief break, noting that his village near Calcutta too has “purane-purane houses, and some of them have doorways more beautiful than this one.”

Life around a relic

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City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

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City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

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City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

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City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana

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City Monument - Old Doorway, Bulbuli Khana