Doors have always fascinated me. Beautifully crafted ones that have stood the test of time, down the corridors of history and then there are those curiously, magical ones written about, in story books.
As the lockdown has been relaxed here, I set out to that part of Delhi which has always allured me. Delhi-6 or old Delhi. The best way to relish this old-world locality would be on foot or a rickshaw. The doors here have tales to tell, as they may have housed innumerable stories, punctuated with poetry and myriad layers of emotions. I wonder what lies behind the threshold of the antique ornate ones that you see, as you walk down the constricted lanes of Delhi-6.
Quaint houses that now wear a shabby, unkempt look have beautiful doors, crafted aeons back by world class craftsmen. Some from the times of the Mughal ruler, Shah Jahan, and some that were built slightly later. Today they stand ignored and unnoticed.
Mystical and exotic gates
I came upon a door in a narrow lane called Gali Chooriwallan, that has intricate work done on it, pictures that depict fables are carved on the panes. A hunter aiming at a lion and the lion in turn is about to pounce upon a deer. Other panes have parrots and flowers skilfully chiselled. These doorways are like portals to a past era, so mystical and exotic.
It is said that the Roman deity Janus was the protector of doors and doorways, and also the protector of beginnings, endings, transitions, gates, gateways, and time. Doors were first seen historically in paintings inside Egyptian tombs. These structures may seem mundane to many but in the world of art and literature, they are often used as symbols of a beginning, an end or choices leading to an unknown path to embark on.
While reading I have come across an umpteen number of doors that have held my attention. In Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, after falling down the rabbit hole Alice finds herself surrounded by locked doors and the only key she can find fits a door far too small.
Ultimately, after finding a way of shrinking herself down to size, she manages to make it through the door, marking the beginning of her adventures in Wonderland.
The chamber of secrets
J.K. Rowling has used different kinds of doors at different points in the Harry Potter series, to symbolise various stages in the life of Harry. A door such as the entrance to the “Chamber of Secrets” which has a striking symbol of seven snakes on it — one for each of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. The door into the chamber of secrets marks a transitional phase for Harry as he finds out more about his and Lord Voldemort’s complicated past.
Doors and openings are symbolic structures that signify moving through difficulties or challenges, entering into new spaces and opportunities.
Ebenezer Scrooge’s door, in Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel “A Christmas Carol” for instance. When Ebenezer arrives home on Christmas eve, the story unfolds. The door knocker, an unremarkable but oversized piece of architectural ironmongery turns briefly into the face of his former business partner Jacob Marley, heralding the visit of the three ghosts that take Ebenezer on a journey of his wrongdoings and failures to help him see the error of his ways.
The most magical and enthralling door in literature is the one in C.S Lewis’s “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. During the World War II, four children are brought to the safety of a sprawling country mansion, which is rife with mysterious nooks and crannies.
During a game of hide and seek, Lucy, the youngest child, finds a wardrobe which is actually a door, a portal to the magical world of Narnia. The door, made of magical wood, transports the characters to another kingdom and another time.
There are doors of love and bonding as well as tantalising ones that lead to the no-man’s-land. They herald us to different spheres — to our destiny. Jim Morrison, had rightly opined, “There are things known and there are things unknown and in between are doors.”
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Gurugram, India. Twitter: @VpNavanita