City Monument – Old Beautiful Doorways, Galli Chooriwallan Street
Celebrating a souvenir.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is arrayed out in six panels. The planks that link them are studded with cap-like decorations, like little black nails. Four gigantic latches are fitted at different corners, their metal chains as hefty as the ones used to imprison the courtesan Anarkali, in the movie Mughal-e-Azam.
This wooden door, with an arched taak at the top, transports the viewer to an earlier era. The only contemporary giveaway is of a white electric door bell at the top-right.
The door frames the entrance of a house in Old Delhi’s Galli Chooriwallan street. It is very close to the house with a beautiful doorway that was recently razed down to make way for a multi-storey building—the demise of that doorway was mourned by The Delhi Walla, here, a few days ago.
As is true of most of the city, Delhi’s historic Mughal-era quarter is undergoing rapid transformation. Old is being replaced by new. But the Walled City continues to host souvenirs of its architectural past, here and there — though such treasures can be hard to find. This doorway is exactly one such place, snuggled at the end of a cramped alley. In fact this entire passageway is like a museum of doors, with scores of similar doorways lurking around, each an element of utmost elegance. Despite being hefty and grand, these doors are so rooted to this address that they look ordinary in a most surreal way, as if they were celebrities lounging in ordinary clothes in the privacy of their home, far removed from the vulgarities of fandom and self-importance.
Each door is flanked by stone columns, which have patterns of flowers and leaves inscribed on them. The door sills show age and venerability, the weathered wood looks creased and has clearly seen the shift of many seasons.
The lane has a series of small printing establishments. This morning a labourer enters from the main street outside, his back weighed down with a great stack of printing sheets. He hobbles on, without a glance at the beautiful doorways.
The most attractive of these doors, the one described in the beginning, belongs to a private residence. A lady answers the doorbell. “Yes, our house is very old,” she says, and closes the door again.
An ode to doors