“Agla Station Rajiv Chowk Hain,” an automated voice speaks in a manner calm and composed unlike the ambience in the metro coach. Everyone in the train–the office goers with their laptop bags and dark circles, rucksack wearing tourists, WhatsApp addicted aunties in sarees, and college students like myself–braces for impact as within seconds, chaos is about to be unleashed.
“Doors will open to the right,” the deep baritone of a woman echoes through the speakers like a war cry from a conch shell. The situation gets more intense and beads of perspiration appear on my forehead. As soon as the gates open, it indeed feels like a battle with people kicking, elbowing, pushing, and pulling each other as they struggle to get in and out coach. I feel like a lifeless rag doll dragging my sorry self to some corner trying to avoid the bulls charging at me. It’s another day of travelling by Delhi Metro.
I have had a bittersweet relationship with the Delhi Metro, a part of my daily life. I start my day by opening my arms wide in Shahrukh Khan’s signature pose at the security check. Then I slide down the escalator and skid my feet towards the airport express line. After reaching the bustling New Delhi metro station, I travel by the yellow line.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) includes several routes like the yellow line, blue line, violet line and the airport express. The airport express is the Barry Allen of metro lines, the fastest in the DMRC. It somewhat feels like an elitist ride as it is fast and has proper seats with elbow rests. In sharp contrast to this, my friends are accustomed to creepy stares from strangers while travelling by the yellow line (which just includes two rows of seats in each coach facing each other). Obviously, the elitist ride costs more (INR 50) than your normal metro journey.
Now let’s talk about general metro rules. The brains of Indians (especially that of Delhiites) are renowned for lacking basic civic sense and adherence to rules. Indians in the metro are no exception. When the gates open at every station, basic courtesy requires you to stand at the sides, allow the passengers to come out in a proper fashion and then subtly step in. But subtleness and courtesy seem like a far cry from typical metro behaviour. Outside every gate, there are printed words on the floor which read, “Let the passengers alight first”. But everyone seems to be in a rush. The blokes at the platform stand right at the doors facing the blokes who want to get down and this ends up looking like a wild rugby match, an elaborate dance of bumping heads and trembling hands. This is particularly true in the case of extremely crowded stations like the famous Rajiv Chowk metro station and Kashmere Gate metro station. If my train halts at these stations, I breathe a sigh of relief as I see multitudes of passengers set foot to the outside world. However, this feeling is short-lived as five odd seconds later, the absence of the crowd gets compensated. An equally large number of commuters rush inside and it feels like I just had a delusion of an empty coach. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that after China, India and ‘Friendzone’, the zone with the highest population in the world might be Rajiv Chowk metro station.
Another rule prohibits eating and drinking inside the metro. Although it seems like a minor rule, I still choose to be a hardcore law-abiding citizen. I remember that I did break the rule one evening when I opened a packet of nachos to feed my famished stomach. Another day, a lady sitting next to me opened her large lunchbox which had a shade of bright pink that made me cringe. Then shifting my eyes towards my phone screen, I tried not to bother. But my nose got triggered in an instant. The reason for my nostrils yelling for help was because the lady was eating a sandwich which had a lot of raw onion slices stuffed inside. If I was ever a Superman, I’m sure onions would be my ‘Kryptonite’ because I just hate them. Basically, the onions in this sandwich were so smelly that I was about to faint. There were no more empty seats in the metro so I just got up and stood near the door as that seemed like a better option. That day, I understood the actual reason why the DMRC had framed the ‘no eating’ rule.
The Metro is a lifeline for the majority of the wildlings of the urban jungle called Delhi. E Shreedharan, a man credited for setting up the metro lines in Delhi, earned the sobriquet “Metro Man”. No wonder that he was once considered as a Presidential candidate by the BJP. The network connects people and despite the little issues and moments of mayhem, I feel a sense of belonging to these trains. Apart from Connaught Place, momos, and unruly traffic, what characterises Delhi best is the Metro. Now I should better stop writing because the man with the heavy voice on the speaker is resuming his announcement, saying “Next station is Kashmere Gate”.
Feature Image Credits: Diwas Bisht (Behance)
Shaurya Singh Thapa