Life in a Metro


Men and machines are laying railway lines beneath colonial-era Mumbai, cutting through hard rock and soil

Of late, Rahul Rajaram Powar, 35, spends a good part of his waking life in a wide, deep pit. As the Maximum City’s first underground Metro project gathers steam, the engineer from Kolhapur, engaged in the work on the southern terminal point of the line at Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai, will have to go deeper underground. The mammoth work on the 33.5-km line is in full swing now. Rahul, an assistant manager with L&T, starts his day at 6.45 a.m., setting out from his apartment at Vartak Nagar in Thane, 41 km from his workstation at Cuffe Parade. He has to first catch the local train to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. From there, he takes a bus to clock in at work by 8.15 a.m.

Before going down the pit 26 metres deep and 21 metres wide, he starts off with a morning meeting and oath-taking session with fellow workers. “It is basically to share the plan of the day’s work and fallout of the previous day’s work, and most important, to make people aware of safety and security,” Rahul says.

A tunnel-boring machine will be placed in the pit to cut through hard rock and soil and make way for railway lines beneath the over four-century-old township built during the colonial era. The fully underground Mumbai Metro Line 3, or the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ line, will connect the Cuffe Parade business district in the extreme south of the city to SEEPZ in north-central with 26 underground stations. The project, initiated a year ago, is being implemented by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.

After having lunch packed by his wife, Rahul sits for a discussion on technical issues with his seniors and it is back to the pit again. At 7.30 p.m, the tired engineer comes back to his camp office, takes off his safety shoes and smiles.

“Today is a big day for me. I have achieved the required depth to launch the TBM machines. We had to work very systematically to solve the hurdles of cutting through the hard rock,” he says. By 8.30 p.m., he is back at the train terminus. “I reach home at 10 p.m. and what I miss most is catching up with my daughter. She is asleep by the time I reach home and when I set out for the day, she is still sleeping,” Rahul smiles.

He runs to catch the train back to Thane.

(Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury is the Chief News Photographer, Mumbai, of The Hindu)

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