Friday, January 21, 2011

Travelling back in time on the Delhi Metro, suffused with warmth


Travelling on the Delhi Metro was a new experience. The Metro has definitely brought about a change in the lives of many, many Delhiites and shortened distances like never before. A couple of my close friends, senior executives in private insurance companies, use the Metro to commute to work.

Although Delhi roads are broad and there seems to be parking space, at least judging by what little I saw, the number of vehicles on the roads is far, far higher than that on Chennai roads. There are fewer two-wheelers, but vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The larger BMWs and Benzes come out in the night and finding parking space in Connaught Place, where I had dinner one night, is not easy.

The Delhi Metro brought back memories of the Bombay suburban trains, more than it did of the Calcutta Metro. People flow in and out as the train glides to a halt at stations and if you are not sprightly enough you could find yourself wedged in between doors that don’t wait too long to close. It’s fairly comfortable inside; you cannot expect to find a seat during rush hour though. You’ll be lucky to find enough standing space.

There is an entrance directly to the Metro from Pragati Maidan and what I saw of two evenings was people scrambling at the entrance to get in. The Bombay culture of queuing up and being orderly was missing. Policemen with AK-47s have to come up to restore order. Carry bags are screened but it’s not difficult to pass through with an explosive substance if you want to. Because there is no frisking as such. Timings are clearly displayed and the Delhi Metro is clean, almost spic and span.

I used the Metro a couple of times and escorting me were a few handsome youngsters from the Indian Printer & Publisher Services, Training and Research (IPP Star) team. As you age, you get respect (if you deserve it) but I was quite overwhelmed by the care and attention the young turks bestowed on me. They ensured I got in and got off first, purchased tickets for me, stood behind me at the entry and exit points where I had to drop tokens, shepherded me into CNG-powered autorickshaws and dropped me right outside the hotel gate.

A couple of them were from Varanasi, one all set to tie the knot. I asked him what he planned to do since his fiancĂ©e had a government job in the holy city. He said he would decide after the wedding, a dilemma many youngsters in middle-class families are thrown into. He was proud he had studied at the Benaras Hindu University, India’s No. 1 university in his books (and also by an India Today – Nielsen survey). I chatted up the others; they were a friendly and enthusiastic lot, bubbling with energy, cracking jokes, and I, during the moments I spent with them, suddenly felt younger. And as the train passed the India Gate, Yamuna Bank, Akshardham, Mayur Vihar, Mayur Vihar Extension and New Ashok Nagar stations on to Noida Sector 15, my thoughts raced back to my early years of work more than two decades ago.

No picture was possible at the Metro where photography is banned, but this one at the Printpack exhibition more than made up for it. As some of them provided the protective shield for me at the Metro, these young turks (I don’t know why I’m calling them so) quickly flanked me, eager for a picture that will always bring me wonderful memories.

1 comment:

Editor-ippgroup.in said...

We are on our way. For those of us who have lived here for many years we have been waiting for Delhi to become a city. For the seventh or eight incarnation to overcome its very British ambition to only be a village of 300,000 government servants.

It's taking a while but now with a population of 15 million (although the official figures are probably much lower)it teems with migrants and youth looking for jobs of every kind.

After independence the planners came up with the plan to build industrial cities in a ring around the capital. This idea was inspired by the British town planners who tried the same thing around London. In Delhi, this plan has been an utter failure till now.

But with our new found wealth and confidence we have started building roads and fly overs and the metro. The metro itself is a miracle since no one in Delhi expected anything to be done in time and with quality and without corruption.

And this metro has become our metaphor of hope. Of connectedness, of hope, of equality and mobility. I find that each time I ride the metro, in deference to my white beard someone always offers me their seat. A proof that we're going in the right direction.