Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Guitl-Edged Metro

I know I am lucky to have lived and worked in Delhi - since when I was a child, my mother, a Punjabi to the core moved to Chandigarh and pushed her only daughter into the Media industry(I still don't know whether that has changed to P-u-najbi or P-a-njabi).
Anyway to get back to my mother of western Indian origin (no that sounds wrong too)- Anyway my mother always told us that the streets of Delhi were paved by money from the Punjabi labourer and Bombay taxpayer.
She had a point.
After all, New Delhi has always been this oasis of wide avenues, lush green roundabouts (well sort of!), well painted street signs, and of course the lovely gracious homes built by Lutyens, et al. Agreed its no comparrison to the wealthily adorned forts of Patiala, where my mom spent the netter part of her childhood hugged in royal robes and pampered by smells of sarson. Or for that matter our sprawling little mansion in Chandigarh, where parks are green and roads are wide. But adding to this her theory that people in Delhi don't work half as hard as their cousins in India's business capital- and my guilt was complete.
My guilt has grown over the years- not the least because as I traveled more around the country I realised just how privileged New Delhi is compared to every other part of the country. My emotions on the subject had grown to proportions that compared with post world war II German guilt or post colonial British guilt.... you get the point.
As a result I have never really enjoyed looking at India Gate lawns, or the Purana Quila boat club, or music concerts in Nehru Park without thinking its a bit unfair that we get them, while there in Mumbai people are slaving away just to make sure all our main streets are well lit, and all our footpaths well paved or the land labourer in Patiala who inherits debts yet gives India the wealthiest produce.
So you can just imagine my agony when I first took a ride on the Delhi metro- this was certainly something Mumbai doesn't have. In fact I think the man who built the Delhi metro E.Sreedharan has only got to the proposal stage in Mumbai. I believe the project is stuck waiting for the central government to approve the funding (yuck more guilt...)
But that metro ride changed something for me. As I walked down the well-polished granite steps - I had to clutch the shiny steel banisters as I reeled at the grandeur and cleanliness of the metro station. Organised queues at the ticket counters, escalators that worked smoothly, metro staff that were kind and polite, seats that weren't broken, and trains that arrived with alarming precision.
This was clearly a whole new kind of Delhi privilege (okay I know Kolkattans have had one for years). This was the kind of privilege that brings on raw, naked, unabashed greed. I don't really care if no one else get this- this metro is mine mine all mine......
So eat your heart out Mulund and Ghatkopar, and hop in your cabs old Malabar Hill and Nariman Point- use your suburban trains Bandra and Kurla- It's Delhi that has this dream machine of underground luxury.
And I am sick of listening to people tell us how Delhi is such a dump- an overgrown village of boors, where nobody obeys the law and everyone uses wasta (or pull- "don't you know who I am"). To all those Mumbaiites, Bengaloooruans, Kolkattans,Chenn-aiyoiites etc etc- Who crib, I say- Mere paas metro hai.

And about Chandigarh, with its big snooty Texan attitude that is so easy to fall in sync with and escape from the working and metro, as my mom always say the land of hariyan hariyan chadiyan and chitiyan chitiyan daariyan. Leave your clean open wide spaces behind, for I have 30 sec of fame and peace in the subway.
The Delhi metro has finally released me from my metro guilt- and unleashed the selfish greedy Delhi beast in me.
P.S. But my fellow Cosmos need not feel too bad- as I exited the metro at Chawri Bazaar to make my way through the bustling bazaars of old Delhi- I hit the pavement with the crashing reality that the privileges of New Delhi don't extend to people even a kilometre outside the pristine capital area. Then again bet they don't pay as much in taxes :)


AG said...

Oye! Mumbai ke baare mein kuch nahii! :) We don't have a Metro coz our railway system works fine .... really well! Period!


Karty said...

wake up ag! who said rail is working fine? and bombay has very rare chances of having good metro service as most of it is reclaimed land. This unleashed delhi beast has a point.
nicely penned gal!

Zedekiah said...

Thanks guys!!! sometimes reality hits home hard.... The metro is really such a contrast to normal 'urbanlly rural' living we all are so used to seeing. No wonder the silent beast runs underground...... But i read a new proposal by Sreedharan which talks of building an undergound metro sub in mumbai. more broken roads, blocked traffic, contsruction bypasses for a decade for that underground cinstruction to take place. and with floods, how will they stop undergound seepage.quite a challenge... . but lets see. !!

Zedekiah said...

arre anand, delhi aakar dekh to sai.. kya tension le raha hai..