City Hangout – Seven Windows, Kaka Nagar
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Yellowing leaves are embedded within cobwebs, making the leaves look like they are hanging mid-air. The cobwebs are spread like the handwoven work of the most delicate filigree. Then there’s the wood, disintegrating. It looks like a sheet of metal that melted away in heat, grew distended, and then solidified again, acquiring new shades in the process.
This is one of the many arresting khidkis, or windows, clustered one after another. It even appeared on the cover of a book some years ago. The windows flank the back wall of a government office in central Delhi’s Kaka Nagar. The rotting state of the wood, and the elaborateness of the cobwebs indicate that the khidkis haven’t been opened for a long time. The wall faces a quiet lane, and the windows look like frames hanging along the gallery wall of an art museum.
These are seven windows. Their size is uniformly similar, but the time-worn decay has rendered each different from the rest — like septuplets who would look exactly the same at birth, and gradually acquire distinctive traits and looks, induced by unique experiences and sufferings.
Indeed, every window has its own mesmerising idiosyncrasy. One, as mentioned, has leaves trapped in cobwebs. Another has its panes sheathed in mouldy wood, and resembles a biennale artist’s installation that aims to showcase the effects of lost years. The window next to it is covered in long and curly cobwebs, like an Urdu calligraphy in gossamer silk.
The central window has the most common look — it is blocked by an air-cooler. But sieged by its extraordinary siblings, the window’s ordinariness becomes extraordinary.
Over a century ago, celebrated French artist Claude Monet painted several scenes of the same facade, that of Rouen Cathedral, at different times of the day and year, with each painting looking similar to others, and yet profoundly different.
Watching these windows in Kaka Nagar, one might imagine them to be an artistic enterprise of a similar ambition.