Friday, April 26, 2013

Close Encounters

Personally, I feel that the Delhi metro has been a revolution for the city. It connects the north and south, east and west corners of the national capital region. It, regretting, also connects sweaty office staffers, wailing children and families who always seem to have heavy luggage. On crowded rush-hour evenings like today, those suitcases become living organisms and occupy a rather large segment of space inside the coaches.

Violet line has always been my least preferred metro rail-line. Bustling crowds aside, the route is famous for its small coaches and unusually low air-conditioning. Now, before all you ‘traditional’ folk start cribbing that we Indians were born without A/C’s and that this degenerating youth will cease to exist with cool, humid-free air, I request all you ‘Non-A/C and proud’ group members to hop onto a coach on the said metro line. It’s a warm, very warm summer evening and you set into the metro expecting that gust of cold air, ruffling your hair as you walk through the gates, and it does. You grab an overhead handle for support and so does the person beside you. Now, apart from the deep stenches his arm carry, inconveniently, inappropriately designed cooling system also carries the smell from where the man just walked in. Be it the bus, the fish market, his home or even a reeking wall where he took a leek – you can sniff it all.

Even after you successfully evade the horrifying odours and rescue yourself to negligent corner near the door, the train stops for the next station. Here begins my main concern. You see, unlike other routes where people get on and off at multiple stations, the violet line has become a route where people only board (for Central Secretariat and Badarpur). There is hardly any de-boarding. The few souls who do want to get off at say Nehru Place or Khan Market have to wade through a sea of human body (and sweat, mind you) to the door and shove himself and a few other passengers out of the coach. It is quite a fascinating sight to see an average 100-pound trying to make it out. No one is willing to step aside and they are not to blame. The floor screams for surface area.

One remarkable thing I observed about being squeezed to pulp by other people in crowded coaches is that people are really comfortable touching each other, even though it is forced upon them. People offer vague smiles and say, “Beta, kya karein? Jaga hi nahi hai. Metro kitna crowded ho chukka hai”. “Haan uncle ji,” came the prompt reply from somewhere ahead. “But crowd to hum jaise log hi banatein hain na.”

Another interesting thing is that the passengers morph into a single entity. This is a feature brought out by the constant harsh brakes of the train. I happened to be cramped with no space to even twist my leg. My nose itched and I had to turn my face sideways. I couldn’t bear to the alcohol-ridden breath of the “uncle” beside me. I fear the safety of my wallet and phone. So with one hand on my back-pocket and the other pressed against the phone pocket, I relied on my terrible balance to save me from falling. Interestingly, each the time the train jerked due to braking, the entire cabin of people swayed ahead and then back again. It happened every time we braked. Sway towards the front and back again. Front and back.

Finally, Central Secretariat arrived and the sea of people broke into a menacing wave as people just rushed out. Probably it was the crowd and the smells, or perhaps it is the simple metro-gene we Indians now possess and launch out of the train every station, even if it terminates there and won’t move ahead. The incoming passengers have a saga of their own, eyes transfixed on the seat they want to capture. Avoiding any major injuries to myself and my olfactory lobes, I headed to the violet line’s sister track, the yellow line. The ‘8’ coach train arrived; the last two bogies were virtually empty. I wondered why there weren't similar trains on the former one, where footfall is the highest every evening as per Delhi metro statistics.

Well, some questions go unanswered. But the rest of the evening was not fun either. I sent out a bunch of tweets about #DelhiMetro on the way, but that was it. We missed the show for Iron Man -3 and I’m left with some irritating friends texting me how good it was. Curse them. Anyway, I’m at my friends for the night and really have the feeling that I’m missing something, someone rather. It feels odd not to see that cute little face reading a novel aloud while I listened intently, or that cup of tea with maggi or that warm goodnight hug.

Ah, close encounters are rare. I almost suffocated in the metro today, almost watched a movie and almost thought I could pull out a night all by myself without a certain special person. Some days are funny, some are funnier still. 


  1. Nayan, this is such a beautiful post! The Metro is a part and parcel of life and I can relate to a lot of what you said. Coincidentally, even I wrote about the Metro some days back. Speaks for its charm, that does. :)
    Must remember to follow your blog more often!

  2. Awwwww! '...really have the feeling that I’m missing something, someone rather. It feels odd not to see that cute little face reading a novel aloud while I listened intently, or that cup of tea with maggi or that warm goodnight hug'.

    Nice post, but this was my favourite part. Kindly show 'someone' this. :D

  3. I love the way you write your posts and hence I'm awarding you the Liebster award!

    You can collect it here

    Congrats and Happy Blogging :)