walls. Outside the station in northwest Delhi, a large, lonely mall greets us. Directions to Adventure Island and Metro Walk Mall dot the place. Rickshaws wait to transport families to Adventure Island, which has an amusement park, malls, an Italian eatery, a McDonald’s and a video game arcade. Shop owners from Karol Bagh have set up temporary stalls here to find new customers. For the rickshaw-wallahs, inhabitants of Rithala, though, there is nothing. “Ek samosa Rs 60 ka hai, kaise khayenge,” asks Hemraj. With the Metro and now the electric autos, business has also dwindled for them, he says. But for those inside, business is booming. Vijay, who works at the video game arcade, says, “The Metro has brought so many people here. We started this gaming zone five years ago, and we’re doing well. The place is packed every day.”
The Metro has spelt business opportunity for many. Like Jitendra, who runs Metro Corner, a snack stall outside the Pitampura Metro station. He quit his job as a salesman to open this joint. “With the Metro, I have guaranteed business,” he says. Even the rickshaw-wallahs here have a steady business. Some say they worked with the Metro before taking up driving rickshaws.
On the other end of the Red Line, across the Yamuna, Seelampur tells a story similar to Rithala. It’s a huge, barren station, with no advertising, opening out to an equally large, empty public space. The neon pink sign of the Metro Walk mall calls attention to itself, and Carrefour, the hypermarket giant, ducks in the background. Outside these splendid edifices is a narrow street selling chowmein, popcorn, chana, and clothes at throwaway prices. The enormous station square is deserted, so is the mall, but that narrow street’s packed.
The Metro has made Delhi easier to navigate, brought down pollution levels, made travelling safer for women, and maybe even civilised us a bit (thanks to announcements that tell us to wait for those coming out of the train before walking in, not to talk to strangers, not to play loud music). But this symbol of progress and connectivity has also brought in less perceptible changes. From turning commuters inside the train to consumers outside it, the Metro, it would seem, has facilitated business, and development of outer parts of the city. It is not a leveller of society, nor can it be —but it is a space