I feel sorry for my grave and dull tone, but that’s how I have always felt about this estranged land. I have been staying in Delhi for about a decade now but still every other day I feel myself like a complete stranger to the city. Out on the streets I feel like a traveller with lands unseen to explore, men, strange and unknown, to meet, adventures, hitherto unexperienced to seek and new horizons to unfurl. Years back when I first appeared here with an intention to shape myself as a man, I travelled around the city, to help myself make my both ends meet, with the public buses from DTC, in those crammed boxes on wheels, to be boarded from massively crowded stops, with beggars begging, hawkers yelling, men puffing off smoke and spitting pan-masala, and rowdies, wearing long hair and slim fit jeans, ogling and jibing at the pretty young women waiting for the buses. But now things have changed, both for me and for city itself. It’s been quite a time I have boarded one of those crowded buses, that seemed never to fill up.
Today, I mostly commute by what is supposed to be the lifeline of this amazing city, the Metro. They say it is one of the most sophisticated rail transit systems in Asia, even better than its Japanese counterpart, The Bullet Train. So unlike the crowded stops, with infuriating summer sun, pouring rain-clouds, and chilly breezing winters, you board in the vehicle at one of those built and maintained establishments, where you buy tickets in the form of small magnetic disks(the smarter masses prefer cards with prepaid value so to prevent being in queues) and check in to register the source of your journey by passing through automated pass-ways that open up to allow the passage for a single mortal, on the ticket being touched at the designated spot. Most stations would have escalators, moving or still, supposed to ease you reach the point where the train stops just at your face, the doors open up out of the blues just like you would have heard in those childhood fables of Alibaba and the forty thieves, without even one uttering those magical words.The insides are lovely,clad in off white walls, with all sorts of references to public education about hazards of smoking, symptoms of anaemia, eradication of polio, planting of trees, prevention of AIDS, use of condoms, birth control and everything else the Delhi outside of Metro is concerned about.
Each car, they call it a car but it best describes a bogie in a traditional railway, has long benches of metal lying opposite to each other, with a few seats reserved either for ladies, senior citizens and the disabled. Above each of the doors, that open and close automatically at the stations, is given a diagrammatic representation of the transit line with the passed over stations lit up in red, the upcoming blinking, and the last again lit up in green. So informative!. Every now and then announcements are made both in male and female voices, alternating in English and Hindi about the upcoming stations and the general conduct to be followed inside the train and station premises, not to forget the attention to possibility of a punishment in case of a violation. Besides the long benches, there are two pairs of two seat benches at both the corners of the car, opposite to each other. Often you would find there love birds chirping and fondling each other, trying to take advantage of the corner, hoping to hide themselves from the gaze of fellow men and women. But things worth hiding are always seen. If you preferred to move your eyes around you would easily spot young boys, devoid of pleasure as yet, staring them like hungry dogs at a piece of flesh, or the occasional aunt, who would alternate having a glimpse and making a vow not to look again at the heinous deeds performed, possibly grieved by the diminishing sense of values, impact of westernisation, internet, mobile phones, social media, the metro itself and everything that didn’t exist in their time, may be the opportunity. Every train has one car, the first in the moving direction, reserved exclusively for the women, and the announcements, as I mentioned, would keep warning about men entering it being punishable. This is something Delhi Metro introduced keeping in mind the security of women, though the number of rapes reported have been on a constant rise. Not sure if it protects the women but it surely diminishes the probability of an accidental fling for youngsters like me.
To be continued…