The Gates of Chorao

By Salil Chaturvedi

This photo essay is narrated through 17 photographs. Click on each picture to start your slide show. Use the arrows to navigate to the next picture.

Why do gates talk to me? Since I was a child, so many of them have whispered their invitation to clamber on top, a request that I have most merrily acquiesced with. It is only later in life that I learned that in Latin ‘porta’ means gate, hence the word portal. And ‘portare’ means carry, hence portable. No wonder the gates wanted to carry me!

I can actually claim a swinging kind of intimacy with gates. It can best be described as an on-off relationship. I have either been on a gate or off it! I have suspended myself on many a handsome gate; slid my fingers across the faces of countless pretty ones on my way to school; tested their 'voicing' by running a stout stick across their chests, and at times, surprised sleeping gates by jumping on them to give them a good afternoon spin. I must say that while some of them have squealed with pleasure, others have pinched, poked, knocked and stabbed me.

A curious habit I developed was of mumbling to myself, 'Innnside … ooooutside,' as the gate swung cheerily on its hinges from one extreme to another. Sometime during those childish swings—I don’t remember exactly when—a question has niggled. A question that seems delicious to ask, but protests not to be answered, for if that question is answered, it seems to me that the whole damn show will end. Galaxies might crumble and blackholes might simply vanish!

The question is: If the gate is something that you can step across to be inside, or outside, of something, where does the gate exist? What kind of a place does the gate itself inhabit? Is it the uncertain place of Schrodinger where a cat exists magically, neither dead nor alive? A place of transcendence beyond being and non-being. Is that why it's really so much fun to swing on gates, because you are in a never-never-land? When was the last time you swung on a gate? Oh well, it seems some questions are best left unanswered, or better still, some questions just deserve to be mulled over while sitting atop a gate.

I have enjoyed thinking about some famous gates: the Pearly Gates come to mind. It seems we will have to deal with gates even in the afterlife! I often wonder how St. Peter reacts to someone swinging on the Pearly Gates while he is going through the ledger. Then there is the City with Nine Gates, a powerful metaphor for the body from the Bhagavad Gita.

In Chorao, where I have lived for the past five years, there are a wonderful variety of gates. There are proud gates, loud gates, neglected gates, merry gates, lonely gates, hidden gates, wide gates, tall gates and narrow gates. They tell their own story. I hope you have your imagination well-oiled as you view these gates of Chorao.


Salil Chaturvedi is a poet and writer. He is the Asia region winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition (2008) and the Unisun/British Council Short Story Competition (2007). He lives in Goa with his family. His latest book, In the Sanctuary of a Poem (Goa;2017) can be bought from Dogears Margao here or on Amazon here.