Delhiwale: Knock knock! Who’s there?

  • A timeless architecture in Jangpura
Studded with faded brasses, this is a traditional wood door you might chance upon in Old Delhi, or in any other historic neighbourhood such as Mehrauli. PREMIUM
Studded with faded brasses, this is a traditional wood door you might chance upon in Old Delhi, or in any other historic neighbourhood such as Mehrauli.
Updated on May 18, 2022 09:47 AM IST
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ByMayank Austen Soofi, New Delhi

The door is stained with tiny shreds of old peeling paint. The latch is entwined into a small lock so rusty that it has turned red. Green plants are growing uncut on the front.

Studded with faded brasses, this is a traditional wood door you might chance upon in Old Delhi, or in any other historic neighbourhood such as Mehrauli. But this is the more modern Jangpura, where the closest thing to a monument is perhaps the Eros Cinema (since 1956).

The door adorns a ramshackle wall, and is flanked by objects of utmost artlessness. On the left is a window blocked with plywoods, while on the right is a metallic door.

The lane otherwise consists of low altitude multi-storey housings. The worlds of these flats are typical Jangpura scenes, giving the neighbourhood its coziness; washed clothes spread out on the lines, and the elderly sitting in balconies with cups of chai. Here and there the ho-hum sequence of friendly homes is punctuated with a beauty parlour or a grocery store.

But the fascinating door stands out. The silent building appears to be uninhabited, until an ordinary door on the far side of the wall opens and a man emerges. He is wearing a large heart-shaped locket. “I live here… I’m a musician.” Offering no other detail, he disappears again. The encounter is like a fairytale, as unreal as the doorway.

This edifice is an integral element of the Jangpura reality. A casual walk along the alleys takes the visitor to a few other similar samples of derelict architecture. All other such houses this reporter saw happen to be vacant and weedy. No living thing to be seen except lizards and ants.

Who lived in these places? When were they built? Where do their inheritors live now? The story of each of these places seems as endangered as the barely existing structures standing on these sites. One particular turning leads to a mansion with a beautiful window, but completely cobwebbed. The building is screened off from the street by a blue metallic barrier. A passerby informs that it is to be replaced by an apartment.

You ought to pay this place a visit, to these time-worn beauties. They already look like they have lost the ‘jang’ to time, no longer belonging to this world of ours.

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