The Delhi Metro – A Rendevous Of Imperfect Strangers

metro.jpgRevolutionizing travel, are the red, yellow and blue lines of the Delhi metro. A boon for us, proud consumers, the metro system is no doubt a realized dream. The service is frequent, the timings good and the atmosphere inside the compartments- “awkward”. Boarding the Metro at Central Secretariat, hearing the gurgling engine sound, feeling the strong AC, appreciating the recurrent announcements and adjusting to the bright lights, one is hit by a sense of purpose for the day. The Metro gets filled sparsely here; the corner seats taken first (people preferring one stranger by their side instead of two). The Metro period is necessarily the longest period that people spend quietly, and shoot stares across – an activity made all the more easy by the face-to-face arrangement of the benches. The staring is, actually quite unnerving especially when you’re not too happy with the stain on your shirt or the blotch of acne on your cheek. It is, however, an occupation most metro frequenters are glad to swear by. Getting the slightly shy, nervous and the confident, conscious this staring vanishes when confronted with.
Soon after the Secretariat, the grand central of the yellow line arrives. Rajiv Chowk (I personally never knew CP by the name before my first metro joyride) is where the monetary viability of the metro becomes evident. People fill in every little crevice spared by Patel Chowk. So this is why the two child norm is such a necessity for India! Rajiv Chowk, however, provides a temporary relief from the established staring routine (the alley is chock-a-block by now) and brings forth a different set of eyes.
Then one is faced by the dilemma of whether one should sacrifice one’s seat for the elderly and the women who got on here. While very few actually stand up, the others pretend not to have noticed or console themselves with “we’ve almost reached”. The metro leaves CP and whistles by, underneath the madness of New Delhi Railway station.
Before we continue the journey, I would like to touch upon the metro announcements.
Two in particular. “Please vacate seats for the physically challenged, senior citizens and ladies”. Do we actually need a constant reminder having have reached a certain level of civilization and society living? “Please do not befriend any unknown person”, would any one have had any friends if he hadn’t violated this? Every friend was a stranger once.Chawri Bazaar and Chandni Chowk come next, the filtering out of people finally commencing here. Deodorant companies seem to have smelled out obvious potential customers and have smothered metro walls with cheap deodorant advertisements.The announcement “Please beware of pickpockets” broadcast between these stations is definitely derogatory to the area and the fact that it hasn’t been noticed so far is surprising. Kashmere Gate is next and virtually the entire train empties out leaving only the Delhi University students. The original sets of stare-partners greet each other again as the train rolls along. Civil Lines and Vidhan Sabha pass by with the air of having reached the tangible. Vishwavidyalaya arrives and the mass of students drain out. Mind you, the entire ride has been soaked in silence – a tradition not broken even now. The mass of people moves effortlessly to the escalator, a sort of unison in silence. Getting busy with the smart cards on exit, the enormous silence is finally broken by the rickshaw pullers.
Coming away from these observations and venturing to compare the metro with the DTC buses, one sees a different type of stranger here- one who talks to other unknowns now and then. Maybe it’s the fresh air pouring in, maybe it’s the conductors presence that smoothens things out or maybe its just the familiarity of the people with this form of transport considering buses date back to the British period- but the people are more at home here, despite the killing rush and the rash blue line policies. Furthering the comparison to the Mumbai Locals, one finds the metro ambience lagging here too. The Mumbai trains are by far the most congenial of the three, with people exchanging pleasantries, opinions and in certain cases even their lunch boxes.

Concluding now (for I am a true CBSE product and going beyond the word limit is simply sacrilegious), I must say that the metro is the best thing to have happened to Delhi in years, an artery in Dilli’s “dil”, a lifeline for the Delhi University students, the best way to connect Old Delhi, an incentive to live in Dwarka, an escape from traffic jams and PWD potholes throughout the capital, and most importantly, a proof of developing India, a hope to 2020: Developed India. I would only urge the commuters unfortunate enough to have been reading this amateur piece of writing to please help make our metro more friendly and warm.

Kabir Sharma