Hey friends don’t confuse this article with any other article on some metropolitan city. Yes the premises of this experience of mine is definitely a metropolitan city-our own capital New Delhi. But I am going to write about my travel in Delhi Metro.
The first time I traveled by METRO was in 1st week of February this year. It was just for the sake of checking it out. I had come from Ludhiana to Delhi for an interview. I had some free time so I thought to myself, “ why not go for a joy ride”. May be the small town guy inside me was too eager. So I took a trip from Pitampura station to Kashmere Gate. I used the escalators to reach the ticket counter. The station and platform were strikingly clean. There were no vendors around shouting at top of their voices. Public sound system and other information systems seemed pretty impressive. I was happy when I reached the ticket counter and saw that there were many free spirits like me who were there just for joy rides. I went up to the counter and a sweet looking and a sweeter sounding girl was there. She said” Ticket to where?” If this had happened in Ludhiana I would have been floored, but as I expected such sweetness here at DELHI METRO, I replied” Kashmere Gate”. She took 11 bucks from me and handed me a counter. I was little surprised that what does this mean and how to use it but I maintained my composure and didn’t let know the girl at counter about my ignorance. I saw an arrow towards a platform. I started moving and the next moment I saw two black flaps staring at me. They won’t let me inside. My mind started working overtime!!!” Should I jump over it or what?” An aunty ahead of me gave the cue. She put the token on target on the display screen and BINGO the flaps opened. I did the same and BINGO I was in too. Well I thought my 11 bucks are already utilized. This was something, which I never expected in INDIA as I had travelled by Mumbai local trains too a year earlier but they were far cry away from MY DELHI METRO. Hey I was swelling with pride. Yes I am an INDIAN. But there was more to come. I went up to the platform and waited for my train to come. It came on time. I wasn’t surprised this time as now I was expecting moon and may be few stars from METRO. The doors of white METRO opened. I moved inside without any trouble. There were some precautions on sound system, route maps inside, digital display, good seats and lots of spaces. Who says Delhi is crowded? There was a VACANT seat but I preferred to stand and looked outside through windowpanes. Train started towards my destination. Delhi outside seemed much greener. I reached my destination, deposited my counter at the exit and came out little happier than I was in morning. The super power in making seemed to have started its journey well. METRO seemed to me the metaphor of the new wave going around India-better life styles, diminishing of rural urban divide, growing economy, changing world order and every kind of metamorphosis we are going through. I wondered was it for real, would India ever reach its destination like I reached mine so effortlessly? I assured myself that it’s going to happen and may be the METRO needed to boost up its speed. Both METROS I mean- the one I travelled in and the other juggernaut called INDIA.
I came back to Ludhiana after finishing my job in Delhi and got busy in my own world. I tried to find out the signs of the metamorphosis I talked about earlier in my hometown and there were many here too which reassured me that Indians are definitely on fast track. Imported Mercs have become norm in Ludhiana. Bikes have replaced scooters big time. Five star hotels, international fast food chains, multiplexes everything is coming up. So is that all what we need? I thought so till I travelled by METRO again almost 2 months later.
It was in middle of April that I happened to be in Delhi again. I had to meet a friend at Netaji Subhash Place. So I thought to me, “Why not take the joy ride again?” So I went to ISBT Metro station with stars in my eyes and of course expecting moon from METRO, may be this time I was expecting some quasars and pulsars. This time I knew the routine. I went up to the ticket counter by escalators again. It seemed today rush was more than last time. I reached ticket counter and bad luck buddies no sweet girl this time. A middle-aged man was staring at me. I was little disappointed. Before he could ask me “Ticket to where?” I asked for the counter to N S Place and handed him over 11 bucks. I forgot to tell the smile on his face was missing as if he has been forcefully placed there. I thought to myself “ maybe its one of his off days”. But then what about the Customer Delight which is the soul of the METRO. Anyways I went up to the platform. The train was to come in 3 minutes. “Hey what were those marks on the platform near the USE ME bins and elsewhere also”, I thought. Some abstract art may be. I went closer and I had that sinking feeling which I can’t express in words. These marks resembled the big red stains, the red PAAN stains, the omnipresent red blots that I had last seen in corridors of all the buildings in Lucknow. I was shocked but picked myself up from despair. “Hey it must be handiwork of few ignorant people”. Train came on time. “Thank God some things hadn’t changed since last time”. I moved inside the White METRO. Two windowpanes had broken as if some body has shot missiles at it. Some garbage was strewn on the floor “Mumbai local trains”, I thought again. And I wished to sit somewhere this time, but there was no VACANT seat so I had to stand this time.
So was my dream shattered? I had an answer to my question, which was resonating between walls of my brain. “So is that all what we need?” The answer was a big big NAAH!!!! We need much more than these METROS and MERCS, these international brands and bikes. More than these tools or metaphors of success we need more sense of ownership of our public property. May be a sense of responsibility will help and some care and a mission for all of us, “Lets not let our pride go down the way of EXTINCT TIGERS”.
Charan Deep Singh