Wednesday, June 18, 2008

City Life - No Gas Masks in Delhi Metro

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No Gas Masks in Delhi Metro

Smelly commute and other woes in the city metro.

[By Sanchita Guha; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

There’s just one thing I forgot to pack when I came to Delhi about 15 months ago—a body armour. Now I sorely feel the absence of a solid Joan d’Arc type of steel creation in my limited wardrobe. And a gas mask would have been useful, too. Who knew, though, that the Delhi Metro, the most impressive work of technology this side of Bosphorus, would be so hazardous to one’s health?

Being a restless sort of person, I’ve travelled a bit and tested out intra-city railway networks of all sorts—but nothing rivals the Metro experience.

Here I am on my first day after finding accommodation in Dwarka Sector 11, waiting on the spotless platform, admiring the tracks, the ceiling, the electronic time display in a slightly goggle-eyed manner. “Very much like abroad only,” observes an equally impressed fellow commuter. Yes, indeed. Even better, I think, when the sleek train pulls in.

The ride through the next couple of stations is peaceful. The chap three seats away to my right is picking his nose, but it’s not difficult to shut him out if I look left. The following station is Dwarka Mor. As soon as the train stops, there’s a sound like an elephants’ stampede. Oh, I see. It’s merely citizens of an overpopulated country rushing to grab the nearest rationed commodity—seats. Am I feeling snooty this morning!

It’s difficult to maintain a stiff upper lip, I soon discover, when you can’t breathe. My ribs are being crushed. Because nine people—nine?!!—have squeezed into a row meant for seven and some of them look like they should have bought three tickets. One very fat woman has parked her bottom on most of my right leg, smiling at me gently. My leg is being crushed, too.

When the pressure eases a bit, I gasp for a bit of air. And gasp it out immediately. The air smells—in no particular order—of mooli, hair oil, bad breath and flatulence. Hair oil, in fact, has a special relationship with the Metro. It’s everywhere. Like territorial animals leaving their mark, commuters on the Metro leave rich, thick smudges of grease on every glass surface. If they have forgotten to oil their hair, they rub their hands relentlessly on the glass until it is sufficiently dirty. There, a job well done, the satisfied faces say. The children contribute significantly to this exercise. Nation-builders from a very young age, no doubt.

A seductive female voice on the PA system tells commuters from time to time to be careful as “pickpocketers have been identified in the train and stations area”. If they have identified, why aren’t they in jail? Whatever.

Now we are nearing Connaught Place, or Rajiv Chowk, if you will. There’s a ripple in the crowd, a bit of jockeying for position to get to the door. One elderly gent, first in queue, pushes his index and middle fingers into the slit between the doors, trying to force them open. But the train has not stopped yet. Bad timing, grandpa.

The doors open, the crowd turns into an avalanche, people at the back sort of trying to climb over the backs of those in front.

Why the rush?

This being a democratic country, all commuters will be allowed to leave the train with equal opportunity. Ah, the escalators. Everyone wants to get to it first. One man throws the punchline. Urged by his companion to take the stairs, which are nearer, he spits out: “Paisa diya hai tikat ke liye, siriya kyon charna hai (I’ve paid for my ticket, why should I take the stairs)?”

Well said, sir!

3 comments:

sunny Taranto Wala said...

Hi dear,
Hi dear,

I came to new Delhi in March of 2008. I stayed at Dwarka Sect. 10 and used to take metro from sect. 11 or 10 and go to different stations. I am from Toronto Canada and we also have underground railway system called subway.
Metro in Delhi is a new concept for Delhi people, and it's really good and convenient for most of the people going to CP. I had the same dam problems every time I board the METRO. In the morning when I went to the station, the police guy will not do anything, just look at my clothes and say go. I don’t understand what kind of security is that. Secondly when I board the metro it used to be empty at sect. 10 or 11. after dwarka Mor station it starts to get full. Same as the blogger I used to notice that on a seat of 7 people sometimes there are 10 passenger. I mean I used to tell my friend what the heck. I mean if there are all the seat occupied than some lady or some guy will come and without even any request they will just push you on side and sit. Oh god people are so rude. I always had to stand. Here in Toronto, first of all people don’t even think of sitting 3 people on a seat of 2. secondly the ladies and old sometimes neglect to sit. Usually people as a matter of courtesy ask them and they say no. ladies think that they are equal to a man so they don’t sit. It is understood and people don’t say a word. In Delhi metro I have noticed that people just don’t know or it's different they love each other so much that they sit together, I have also seen people sitting on the floor, I remember seeing people like that in local or 3rd class or any railway in India. Most importantly the platforms are big but have you ever noticed the size of the metro train, it only has like 3-4 bogies. They should increase the number to accommodate the people. It was hot outside and the AC in the metro was at full. It was throwing cold air on your head and when you go out or come inside from 35 degree and cold air is coming on your head there are chances that you will get sick. Oh from janak puri onwards there are so many people that you can’t even move your hand to listen to your phone. Oh man I must show you the picture how bad it is. Everyone is touching each other and you can smell the whole India in one train. People from different parts have different kinds of smells. It's good that it's economical so that everyone can afford it. I always cursed them and appreciated that they have kept is nice and clean. When you get to rajiv chownk it's so much crowded and people are so stupid that they don’t let the people inside the metro to come out and they start pushing them in. that is the point when you have to save your belongings.
Some people were so intelligent they used to keep their eyes closed and used to pretend that they didn’t know anything and never used to move. I just enjoyed traveling in Delhi Metro.
Another most important thing is that announcing lady voice. Oh it's so annoying and it keeps on yelling words and never stops. It is too loud that it irritates you. Almost 101% of Indian people listen to radio from their cell phones, some of them have the “Chaiya-Chaiya” cell phones, (fake ones). I really used to tell me friend how different it is from a developed country. You know how much we pay for one side fare, $2.75 one side almost Rs. 100. in India going from Dwarka Sect. 10 to Rajiv Chownk is Rs. 17-22 depending on your method( cash or Metro Pass).
It is weired I must say but you know what it is India, and they love it and I love it too. I figured out that there is no point sitting their for 2 minutes and than someone will come and push you. Haha so I started to stand from the very first station.

Anonymous said...

Not only must one avoid the Delhi Metro for the sane reasons, one must also never take it lest one should encounter, er, you know who.

sanjeev said...

you guys have nothing else to do.... there are always two ways to look at things... one is positive other is negetive ... wait a minute there is one more way to look at things thats arsehole's way that you guys have to look at things... im a daily commuter of delhi metro... im travelling in delhi metro since 2 years from now and trust me guys there is not " A SINGLE ONE " loop hole in its system...