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On a Metro creaking with the crowds

The repetitive everyday routine of taking the train is Sisyphean at times, but also a lesson in patience

This is my seventh year in Delhi. I was spared the horror of using public transport for my daily commute as long as I lived in university hostels; they were never beyond a 10-minute walk from the classroom.

Now that I have begun my life outside the university gates, things are very different. A good part of my day is spent commuting, and another considerable part in recovering from the fatigue the commute brings on. I feel like Sisyphus at times when I manage to join the never-ending queue of people waiting to enter through the baffle gates in the metro station in the morning, only to go through the same ordeal at the end of the journey in order to exit. The entire exercise has to be repeated all over again at the end of the day after work — wait in a queue to enter, and then wait in another to exit. Then there are other queues: those for buying tickets, security check and boarding.

A distant aunt attributes this endless waiting in queues to some divine plan by the forgotten gods to give city-dwellers a few lessons in patience. But I have a different explanation: we simply don’t have enough Metro coaches.

Fewer coaches results in extreme overcrowding. It is nothing short of a nightmare to board the Metro at intersection stations such as Rajiv Chowk or Kashmere Gate during rush hour. The silver lining is that often one does not have to rely on her or his feet while entering or exiting coaches at the busy stations. The moving crowd automatically transports you inside as well as outside.

Given the number of important decision-makers who live in the National Capital, it is surprising that nothing much has been done about these things so far. Maybe, it is because the decision-makers themselves have not experienced the frustration of Metro doors shutting in their faces while they are running late for work.

It has been announced that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation is going to procure new coaches soon. But it remains to be seen if the proposed procurement would be enough to keep up with the ever-increasing ridership of the system. Possibly the queues will get shorter, the crowd size will diminish and a ride will no longer seem like a terrible punishment.

These days, I often find myself thinking how many aspiring painters and budding poets in the queues that I see in the metro stations must be leaving their canvases blank and poems unfinished because of travel-induced fatigue.

How many ardent lovers travelling by the Delhi Metro to meet their partners must be horribly tormented by the relentless waiting?

It is to be hoped that things will change soon before art and love, along with peace of mind, disappear from the lives of commuters.

Indeed, a stressful daily commute has almost become a part of the bargain of living in all the metropolitan cities of the country for those who cannot afford private conveyance.

nandini_50@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:02:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/open-page-on-a-metro-creaking-with-the-crowds/article8179996.ece

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