Shruti’s journey on the metro in New Delhi: she enjoyed it!
Welcome to India’s bustling capital of New Delhi. Moving around this smog filled capital is quite an experience. I decided to explore the brand new, gleaming metro (underground and overground) to pick up my beloved, Gupi, from the airport. There is a special ‘ladies only’ carriage with regular announcements urging male passengers not to use that compartment – both in Hindi and English. In spite of that I spotted one man with his wife in it! When I asked him why he was in a ‘ladies only’ carriage, he responded, ‘because of my wife! How can she travel alone and we would be separated in this crowd!’
The main New Delhi metro station is a heaving mass of people where all bags and packages have to be put through the scanner and everybody is frisked as part of security measures. So quite an undertaking in that throng of people all rushing in or out of the station.
The Airport Express is this wonderful, calm, serene experience – almost like travelling first class on an aeroplane! Cushioned seats, not many people, air conditioned with attentive attendants passing round feedback forms and answering all questions with a smile! A fancy blue LED light indicates how the journey is progressing. All very posh.
Being Sunday afternoon, on the return journey, the experience was just that – an experience. An unmissable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. After collecting Gupi from the airport (T3) and travelling in style on the Airport Express, we hit New Delhi metro station. And boy did we hit it! Rather it hit us!
With a huge bag, an overnighter, a computer case, going through all the scanning and frisking and then having to recover all of that in time that it is not nicked, required some agility and presence of mind. And then we were ready to face the Metro itself.
People stood in orderly queues on either side of the entrance of the doors, patiently waiting for the train to arrive. And then mayhem…. Before waiting for anybody to get off, everybody rushed in like bees to a honey pot! Jostling, heaving, pushing and shoving; somehow bags and all we managed to get on. And held on for dear life.
Voices in posh English and Hindi announced the next station, which side the platforms would be, urging people not to sit on the floor of the Metro or spit or eat or drink inside. One station passed, then another and yet another. More people got in and very few out. And there was no more space. More heaving, more pushing and shoving and we began to get real intimate now with all sorts of people! Noses in armpits, forearms in groins, backs against huge bellies…. A pick pocket’s haven.
And I thought there is no more room now. So no more people can get in. Was I wrong! At the next stop, a handful of people got out and even more in their hundreds (or so it seemed) got in. More shouting and shoving and pushing and cramming. Now it was backs to chests, shoulders digging into arms and backs, swaying, clinging, clamouring for air, swearing, shouting, pushing!
And then suddenly, miraculously after being on the Metro for around 35 minutes, woosh! The crowd just vanished. Stepped off at the next station and dissipated.
This is modern India, populous, aspirational, growing and burgeoning. An experience not to be missed!
Text and photo by Shruti