Life in a Metro

Jan 21 2013, 11:58 IST
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In 10 years, the Delhi Metro has altered landscapes and fortunes. In 10 years, the Delhi Metro has altered landscapes and fortunes.
SummaryIn 10 years, the Delhi Metro has altered landscapes and fortunes.

Pooja, who has come from Badarpur to catch up with a friend and go shopping at Lajpat Nagar — all through the Metro lines. Pooja, who travels by the Metro to Nehru Place, where she works as a receptionist, says the service has transformed the landscape of Badarpur. “It was filthy, unsafe and had infrequent bus services. But now, its roads are better, and we even have a McDonald’s.” For Pooja, the Metro has brought with it familiar markers of urbanisation — a PVR, a McDonald’s and a mall.

For Shweta, who lives in Mayur Vihar in east Delhi and works in Noida, the Metro has brought places she had not heard of within reach. “I didn’t know about Shahdara, but I’m going there today for an engagement party,” she says. She’s travelling in the general coach, where she doesn’t feel unsafe but where she has ruled out conversation with strangers – which the automated playback keeps announcing in between stations. The Metro has made accessible places on the outer rims of Delhi. It has turned the likes of Dwarka, once considered an almost-hinterland, into a real estate developer’s dream.

We decide to take the underground Yellow Line from Rajiv Chowk in central Delhi to Kashmere Gate in north Delhi. From the stifled heat of Rajiv Chowk, the crowded train winds its way to Kashmere Gate. At Kashmere Gate, when we emerge from the bowels of the underground train to take the elevated Red Line, the minarets of Old Delhi are visible in the distance. The Metro has taken care to preserve Delhi’s heritage (the construction of Chawri Bazaar station is an engineering marvel). The familiar semi-circular domes of the Metro open on to narrow, busy streets of Chawri Bazaar and Chandni Chowk. Traders, shoppers, residents and tourists alight from the controlled environment of the stations and blend into the chaos of the street. Within the chrome, glass and steel interiors, people move cautiously, taking care to form lines, offer seats, submitting to checks but once outside, the street takes over.

The train traverses through densely populated residential areas, cutting across streets filled with illuminated gyms, bakeries, and shops selling electronic devices and apparel. The track is festive — Netaji Subhash Place is buzzing, Pitampura is noisy, Rohini is cloaked in chatter, but Rithala, the terminal station, wears an empty look, with little advertising on the

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