City Hangout – Old Windows, Daryaganj
Openings of old times.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is a window with six panes. The glass of each pane is discoloured to a different degree—one pane is in fact partially broken, the jagged edges of its shattered glass are hanging like stalactites in a cave. Another pane is left with no glass at all. The whole window resembles the mosaic of an artist’s carefully plotted abstraction.
It is overwhelming to witness this accidental beauty enshrined in a single window. But here are dozens of similar windows clustered together as if an ambitious window convention were taking place in town. The windows are spread through a series of aged buildings that line a stretch of Shubhash Marg in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj; across the road from Golcha cinema (closed since 2012).
These windows are not at all like their modern-day counterparts. Encased into venerable edifices, they ripple along like the motifs of outdated traditions. The buildings of which they are part of are in varying stages of mild dilapidation, like a wall smeared with the patina of many seasons. Even so, the innate grace of these timeworn concretes is intensely palpable. The windows not only speak for the faded elegance of these landmarks, but also convey a sense of the time passing, and of the shift in architectural aesthetics. Some of these windows are more decorative than others, embedded with an innate sense of design, architecture and thought. One tall window is crowned with a smooth arch, and resembles an archetypical Palladian window common in Venice, but without its shorter sidelights. This window is balkanised into four small rectangles, each containing a sub-window (one of the panes has its glass substituted by rotting plywood.) The windows in another building are as tall as the doorway of a hotel lobby. Each spans out into dozens of panes, some of which have their glasses missing. The effect is haunting, like a human face with dark hollows where eyes should had been. The saddest exhibit is of windows blocked up with bricks.
A gleaming new building stands not far away. It is painted metallic grey, and parts of the facade are sheathed with glass, which presumably serve the purpose of windows. It is difficult to instantly fall in love with such a sight. Give it a fifty-year grace period; may be then it, too, will look exquisite.
Windows of Daryaganj