We rarely ride the Delhi Metro. It mainly serves North Delhi; and while they’re expanding it south all the way to Gurgaon, they’ve got at least eighteen more months of construction before our lives would get any easier. But the few times we’ve ridden it, we’ve been shocked by its cleanliness, its efficiency, and its punctuality. It’s a snapshot of a Delhi-that-never-was, or perhaps a Delhi-that-someday-will-be.
The Metro is the pride of Delhi; its managing director, Dr. Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, is spoken of with universal reverence as a man who can create miracles on time and on budget in a city littered with civic projects gone horribly wrong.
The last time we rode the Metro was in March. It was our first time transferring at Connaught Place (one of the two inter-line transfer points), and it was incredible. The crowd inside the train started pushing out and the crowd outside the train started pushing in far before the doors were open. What ensued was a free-for-all of shoving, of leading with the elbows, of shouldering the person in front of you into the person in front of them, of women using their babies like a quarterback uses his blockers.
We rode the Metro again about two weeks ago. Expecting the transfer at CP to be just as insane, I came armed with the camera. My first thought upon descending the stairs: “There is no way all these people will fit into the train.”
But once we made it down the stairs and into the crowd, we discovered that the Delhi Metro authorities had, in the interim, instilled something in their ridership I’ve never seen in the New York subway: perfect order.
Everyone lined up? Nobody jumping the queue? Adequate space left for people getting off the train?
Where was I, and what had they done to Delhi?
I recorded a video anyway, hoping to capture the chaos I expected once the train doors opened. Instead: behold the most orderly on-boarding I have ever experienced in all my years commuting.
New Delhi: 1. New York: 0.