Saturday, 6 May 2006

Down Under

You argue with your rickshaw driver. He demands 40 rupees, you give him 25, telling him that that's what he gets for not turning on his meter or pre-negotiating a fare. He continues to grumble, but you're already on your way out of the blazing sun into the inviting cavern that's sending seductive tendrils of cool air in your direction.

As you disappear below ground, the heat and dust fade slowly away until it's almost like they weren't there. It's cool here, and quiet. No muck, no paan stains or discarded gutka and wafer packets. The loudest sound is the squeak of your rubber soles on the gleaming floor.

You pay your money to a surly chap-behind-the-counter (some things don't change), you get a undistinguished -looking round piece of plastic.

You dawdle a bit, not wanting to look the complete hick, so that you can sneakily see what more experienced souls are doing with those tokens. "Heck, I can do that," you say and stride forward confidently .. and manage to muff it on the first try. But then, it's fool-proof, so you get in on the second shot.

You hobble in search of a down escalator, but there isn't one, alas. As you start down the stairs, you realise there was an elevator that you missed seeing. Never mind.

Bombay-bred instincts steel your spine, galvanise your elbows, as you prepare to fight your way in.

But there's a sleek metal tube just sitting there, doors open, seats vacant. You look around suspiciously. No, it's not a trap. Gingerly, you step in, sit down. A beep warns that the doors will close. A lithe young collegian leaps in, eyes only on his phone, SMSing through the process.

The doors murmur softly as they slide closed. And with a lurch, the train sets off north. At least you take it on faith that it's north. There's no way to judge, underground, no sunny side of the train.

Your map, carefully copied from a website, is redundant. Clear signage over the doors lay out the route. A scrolling red-and-black marquee welcomes you to the Metro, and tells you what station is coming up.

Patel Chowk.

CP, and there's a smallish crowd waiting to get in. They don't wait for people to get off (other things don't change either) and there's a minor scuffle which quickly sorts itself out.

New Delhi. More crowds. Standing room only. Lo and behold, a young man gets up and gives his seat to an elderly lady!

Chandni Chowk.

Delhi main. More people getting off than on.

Kashmere gate.

Civil Lines. You get off. The train whines, eager to be off. The doors hiss shut, and it speeds off into the dark. You get up the stairs, once more, you watch to see how people let themselves out.

This time you manage the token insertion with elan. You check the signage. The Underhill Road side is where you've been told to get off.

You climb up the stairs, still awed, SMSing as you climb: Your Metro ROCKS!

And the blaze of light reaches down to you, hot fingers laying streaks of sweat down your face, your back. You emerge from this tecnological marvel of modern transport, and several cycle rickshaws clamour for your custom.

p.s. There's a Delhi Metro Yahoogroup! [Link via Manish Vij, who also has a bunch of pictures up in this post.]


Albert said...

Ah!!! Another one discovers the pleasures of the Delhi Metro! See, I told you!

chandni said...

i so totally understand..

very recently was introduced to the Metro too..and well...i didnt know what to do with the token either!!!

I'd really like to know how u got that isnt allowed right??

sapphire said...

Ah I left DElhi in 2004 and have to still check the metro...n m doing it soon :)

Varun said...

Nice post. Even I was surprised at how clean and easy everything was when compared to Mumbai's local trains. All the time my I could not believe that this was India and my mind kept wondering how the heck the Metro was working so well.

Some things never change. If you carefully look you will find lots of paan stains on the walls between the escalator the walls beside it.

Btw photography is not allowed on Metro premises.

Joyce said...

pretty cool, isn't it? i've only been on it once, though.
it's so much nicer reading something you actually sat down and wrote. looking forward to more writing by you.

zigzackly said...

No arguments.

You think they should put up posters for people like you and me?

Go fot it. Well worth the price of admission. And it gets you out of the heat!

I guess I was too dazzled to notice. Next time.

Chandni, Varun,
Had no clue photography wasn't permitted. I did look, I promise.

Flattered. :) No, I don't usually write at length here. My excuse is that the writing I do for a living leaves me too tired to do any more. But that's not true for so many others, so perhaps I'm just a lazy so-and-so. grin

Anil P said...

I tried imagining I was travelling to Sion by Metro, almost succeeding until as the train neared a station I said, "Shit, this can't be Sion, where's the smell of shit?" Alas! Reality dawned.

GuNs said...

Gut (Good in German, for the dummers) experience that.

I travelled in the metro for the first time last month. Its such a change to see 'clean' coaches. I am just wondering what keeps it clean. Is it the high rates that make lower-middle classers avoid it? But then, why is it that the lower-middle classers ALWAYS have to be the trouble makers? Why cant they learn some civility? Then again, I've seen software engineers throwing litter out of a train window !! Its in the mentality. Sheesh.

Do read my blog sometime. I have a post on similar lines somewhere there. The title is 'Swades'.