Chasing bovines on the Delhi Metro

Published December 2, 2013
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.
-Photo courtesy of Rapid Metro.

Journalistic ignorance comes in many forms. Some editors condone and some readers ignore. Mistakes and generalisations are part and parcel of journalistic practice. Visiting journalists are allowed greater licence.

So, when Twitter pointed me to a story in a British newspaper that the Delhi Metro stations were “cow-free”, the link was opened instantly.

Titled “India: Riding Delhi’s clean and cow-free metro”, the writer said:

The platforms are wide and litter-free. No cows wander nonchalantly along them, as they do at Indian railway stations. Our gleaming silver train, with its announcements in Hindi and English, glides us to Old Delhi in a little over five minutes: a journey that could take up to 45 minutes by road.

Broadly, the travel writer gave a thumbs-up to the Delhi Metro.

But, he’s clearly missing the cows that dot India’s railway stations, many of which are “open plan” ones. Not only cows, but humans, elephants, camels and even (millions of) flies can enter at any time.

Now, many firangi travellers I know just love the sights and smells of Indian railway stations. Maybe this gentleman is one of them. So, he expected us to replicate the great Indian railway station on the Delhi Metro.

So, what would it take to station cows at Metro halts to give it a more Indian Railways feel? First, they would be allowed to saunter downstairs – using the stairs or the escalators. Second, they could pass through the door-frame metal detector and then be allowed through the wide exit.

One thing I don’t get – how did the writer get to the Metro station without seeing a single cow? Many stations outside New Delhi limits have an ensemble of cows to greet visitors.

Wish the writer had compared the Delhi Metro’s “wide platforms” with the “narrow platforms” on the London tube. Or the fact that the Delhi Metro has mobile phone coverage underground while London doesn’t.

But that’s not the story I started of wanting to tell this week.

It was actually about India’s first private metro network that started up in Gurgaon – a 5.1-km loop network that links the massive office buildings that have come up in this ultra-busy Delhi suburb over the last decade.

Opened after serial delays on November 14, the Rapid Metro, whose 5.1-km loop links to the main Delhi Metro at Sikanderpur station, claimed it has already reached a ridership of 15,000 a day.

Riding on it the other day, your blogger got into a conversation with a couple of fellow-travellers.

An engineer, Rakesh, was delighted with the spanking new coaches and all-new platforms. “I’m saving a lot of money by using the Rapid Metro. Earlier, I had to pay Rs. 40 for the short journey now I pay Rs. 12.”

A young woman, Akriti, who hopped on with a bunch of colleagues, was also delighted with the Rapid Metro. But her take was a little different.

Apart from the obvious convenience, she felt that the Rapid Metro was a secure means of travel for women. “I don’t have to get off to catch the shuttle bus to reach office. The transfer from the Delhi Metro to the Rapid Metro at Sikanderpur station is simple and easy.”

All of us riding on the shining Rapid Metro can’t but be aware of the chaos that prevails below – the garbage, the impossible roads and the total absence of pavements for pedestrians.

I’ve always wondered why we can build a Rs.1,000-plus crore Rapid Metro but can’t fix the roads down below. Or, why good buses on decent roads can’t be a transport alternative to the ever-multiplying cars.

Even as we interrogate our very Indian chaos, I can confirm that there are no cows at the Rapid Metro stations either.

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