Friday, January 24, 2014

Musings in the Metro

The week gone by marked the beginning of my first brush with working in a multi-national, as a part of a 5-month internship program offered by my college. This essentially means that not only do I have to give up the joy of waking up late and forgetting the difference between a weekday and a weekend but also that I have to travel 17 kms one way to reach my office, and that too during rush hour. But thanks to the Delhi Metro, the time taken for this one way commute has been almost halved to just 75 minutes. And even though I spend 2.5 hours daily just in travelling, as a friend recently pointed out to me, I do not mind it (yet) since I get ample time to come out of the early morning inertia, and also to contemplate on questions raised by my observations of my fellow commuters. Here are the 5 things that caught my attention so far.

Tune mujhe pehchana nahin...!

Whenever I had to wait at the Metro station, I made sure I was standing in a well-lit and crowded part of the station, for safety reasons. In one such scenario, my over-thinking mind brought up the question, "how well would I be able to describe a person to a sketch artiste if I was a witness to a scene significant for a crime?" The next day, I tried to describe the face (and not clothes, because it's easier to remember clothes :P ) of my fellow commuters in the Women's coach of the Metro. It turned out that the more discernible features are the face shape, the complexion, color of hair, shape of nose and lips and the height and body structure of the person. Prominent features such as moles, dimples, chin dimples are also good pointers for describing a person. While this activity seemed tough at the beginning, it became easier with time, though admittedly I took my own sweet time in performing this exercise. The takeaway from this daily Metro ritual was that even though we pray that we do not face any such circumstance, we should be prepared for it. We can't all be Sherlock, but we could be a little more observant.

Gandi baat...!

The Delhi Metro is considered the symbol of progress and development. Radio ads for the Indian Govt. mince no words in driving home this point. Personally, I like travelling in the Metro. But sadly, there are no dustbins in any of the Metro premises. This has caused me to end up with too many chocolate and biscuit wrappers in my bag. Surprisingly, the stations are quite clean, though I did spot a couple of chips packets and disposable tea glasses on the tracks. The people of Delhi show immense discipline, responsibility and maturity when it comes to the Metro. However, installing conspicuous dustbins will go a long way in helping commuters who eat/drink on the go and in keeping the stations pristine.

Ye chhori badi Drama Queen hai..!

To entertain themselves during the journey, people resort to a variety of activities. Some read books, some play Candy Crush, some catch up on their sleep, some catch up with their friends on the phone. Some listen to Yo Yo Honey Singh, while others either get lost in their own train of thoughts or completely judge everyone else on the train. And then there is the class of people whose favorite pastime is just creating a nuisance value. They would make irritated noises and frustrated faces because they, just like everyone else, don't have enough space to stand in the jam-packed coach. You can hear a lot of "Oh my God!"s and "Excuuuuuse me!"s from these people. All these antics serve no purpose at all, since everyone is in a similar condition and no one is going to budge. For their part, they are just ensuring that their inconvenience is heard, but it would be a lot better for everyone if they make peace with the predicament, just like everyone else has made peace with them.

Dauda dauda bhaaga bhaaga sa..!!

A single minute can make a difference when one is in a hurry to reach a destination during the rush hour. A minute is all it takes to ensure that you'll get a red light at every traffic signal. A long queue builds up at the station exit within a minute of a Metro arrival. And if you are at the wrong end of the queue, you might miss your bus, which is why people go in a frenzy to reach the exit first. The queue for men to enter the platform premises sometimes starts at the foot-over bridge itself. But to my relief, in such a situation, the one for women is considerably shorter. This survival instinct of feeling grateful for a shorter line is quite contrary to my prudence when it comes to gender equality. The shorter line represents not just the skewed gender ratio but also the smaller number of working women. I guess that if we are given a legitimate head-start in any race, we won't think twice about the merits of a merit-based system. And it is this natural tendency that makes it all the more crucial that appropriate checks be implemented in any policy that aims to eliminate differences at the start of a race, so that only the needy can take advantage of it.

Jitna khaya meetha tha, jo haath na aya khatta hai..! :D

On most days, I don't manage to get a seat in the Metro, and travel standing and looking out of the glass windows. One such evening, while I was sulking about the drawbacks of travelling in public transport, a beautiful scene caught my eye. The Metro was on a bridge across a road, which looked like a black sheet with sparkling rubies kept on it. Except that the sparkling rubies were actually the red lights of cars stuck in traffic, hardly moving. It was then that I realized that a thing that had brought joy to me was a state of misery and frustration for the people sitting in those cars. And suddenly, my not getting a seat wasn't really a problem. The saying, "Those who wear the shoe know where it pinches", holds true after all.

The last few days were exciting but they were just the first few days of a long, long time. The Metro might lose its charm in a few weeks but there is no denying its importance in the life of a Delhiite. And while the journey may become a burden some day, it will have enough adventures and life-lessons to compensate for it. 


  1. Very perfectly written. I can totally relate this to my train of thoughts when I travel in the metro. Love the point you brought about gender equality. Because pragmatism also has two sides, sometimes it is in your favour and the other times you just tend to avoid it :D

    1. Thanks Ravi! Deep down, everyone is looking out for themselves!