Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Metro

The Delhi Metro ROCKS!!

I came back from college on the Metro yesterday. Delhi University to Central Secretariat in eighteen minutes - I thought I'd stepped into another dimension.

And it's not just the speed - it's everything; the cleanliness, the simple decor, the lack of crowds, the punctuality, not to mention the airconditioning that makes the station seem like heaven after the heat outside. It's almost like a plane ride, only even better, if that's possible.

The Delhi University station is the first on the line and you can get a seat if you're quick enough. Otherwise, there are some stations where the people get off in huge waves, like Kashmere Gate and Connaught Place (though the computerised Metro lady calls it Rajiv Chowk, for some reason) and you can get a seat.

You pay your money, you get a token that you use to get to the platform, you wait for the Metro - there's one every five minutes and there are signboards telling you how long till the next one - you get on board, you sit there watching your fellow passengers' faces - not much of a view outside, since it's underground - you reach your station, you use your token to get back outside. That's it, done.

In spite of the fact that I'd never ridden the Metro before, I was amazed at how familiar everything seemed, thanks to the countless movies I've seen that feature at least one scene in a Metro; the most recent of them being one of the earlier scenes in The Lost World, which I watched again on TV recently.

One of the most fascinating things about the stations are the rails themselves. In India, we're used to dirty, stinky, litter-strewn rails at the platforms. These Metro rails are so clean, I'd willingly bet that they're swept every hour. In fact, they're so clean that they look rather inviting. I've always wondered what it would be like to be directly in front of a speeding train, though I've never felt the slightest desire to actually find out, thanks to the stink and the dirt of the Indian Railways. But these rails look.. tempting. Even if I did jump, I doubt I'd be in any serious danger, though, because the Metro comes in so slowly at the stations.

Since it was my first time, my friends gave me a guided tour. I kept jumping about like a little kid, exclaiming in an awe-struck voice about every little thing. We speculated on what would happen if we took a ticket for a nearer station and rode the Metro till the last station. Do the authorities fine the offenders or make them ride back to the station they took the ticket for? Do they have some kind of computerized system keeping track of each of the tokens? Maybe they have different coloured tokens for each of the stations.

In fact, I wondered about it so much that I dreamt about it last night. In the dream, I took a ticket for Rajiv Chowk and the clerk gave me a blood red marble instead of the blue token for Central Secretariat. Unfortunately, I already had a bag of red marbles on me and this marble got lost among them. I kept trying each of the marbles to find out which of them would let me get out of the station. Finally, I tried the last marble and that didn't work either. So, well, it was a nightmare rather than a dream.

If you're a Delhiite who hasn't already tried the Metro, please do, because it's a wonderful experience.
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