the delhi metro

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.

16 responses to “the delhi metro

  1. Thanks for the post, Jenny.
    You made my day. It’s heartening to see that there is finally order in at least one crowded place in India. If they can do it in Delhi, they can do it anywhere else; And that gives me hope.

  2. That is simply amazing and so not expected from Delhi and I can say that because I was born and brought up in Delhi. This makes me so proud. Thank you for the post.

  3. When I saw that picture of Delhiites standing in a line…Ooo..that was something…I just couldnt stop laughing…then had to read it again to try make sure I wasnt hallucinating….
    How did they manage to pull this off?

  4. Order in Delhi! In Delhi! My head’s still reeling from the enormity of this revelation.

    Good god, we just may make it to the ranks of the civilised yet (Eat your heart out, New York!). If this can happen in Delhi, it can happen anywhere!


    Quirky Indian

  5. Good one. But have they started allowing taking pictures and videos on the station? The last time I was there, things like camera were a strict no no.

  6. Actually, if you look really close in the video, right before I enter the subway, you can see a guard rushing towards me, waving, telling me to put the camera away.

  7. I’m sorry to mention this, but I’d be concerned about the deodorant issue (and not just in India, but in any third world country where you are forced to be in a confined place in close quarters).

    Then of course, combine the lack of deodorant with the tropical heat and that ride must not be enjoyable.

    So, I don’t think this metro is up to par with new york’s yet because in new york subways, you have air conditioning and most people will be wearing deodorant.

    Trust me, it makes a huge difference.

  8. Admirable. Mumbai train commuters, please observe and learn. After all, we Mumbai folks always pride our selves to be more organised than Delhi.

  9. You’re liars and I don’t believe your photoshopped pictures either, showing us a world turned upside down. Delhi-ites standing in line?! What’s next? Delhi men not leering at women or pinching their bottoms?

  10. of women using their babies like a quarterback uses his blockers.

    ha Ha loved that description! Come to Mumbai and catch a train. Its ultimate chaos …

  11. To be fair to the folks in Bombay, the local train network handles a world record amount of people. “….The busiest segment, 60 km between Churchgate terminus and Virar, carries almost 900 million passengers per year. The annual traffic density, about 255 million passenger-km per km of route, is believed to be the world record for passenger rail transport…” “…This has resulted in what is known as Super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing passengers per square metre of floor space….”

    More here ..””

    A glimpse “”

  12. The Delhi metro too has air conditioning. On the deodorant issue…well…the deo might not work in spite of the AC. Sigh. I wish people would use effective deos…

    But the orderly line you saw was the result of some monitoring on the part of the metro officials…reminded me of kindergarten the way the guy with the baton told people to Q-up! maybe you’d like that footage too 🙂

  13. I dont believe it. I will go and check it out myself. Or may be some VIP was visiting that day so things were different. We delhites dont change that easily.

  14. Jenny, funnily there was a raucous dinner table discussion with friends just last night about the Delhi Metro. I was discussing the virtues of the complexity of the project and how France celebrated Sridhar, the guy who provided the leadership and direction. The others were saying this is the minimum we can do.

    What can I say? Delhi Metro has been the only place in India where someone has said ‘sorry’ because his foot touched my trouser leg and where someone got up to give me his (yes!) seat because I was a woman.

    And it is cheap. New rolling stock, a/c, vestibuled from the front to the last coach. What’s not to like?

    Thanks for the post.

    @ Vick: My experience has recurred so I do not think VIPs are needed. The city needed something essential to be proud of and this is it. You should also see how the Calcutta crowd behaves totally differently on Chowringhee and a few feet below it in the bowels of the Earth. But this observation is from 1994 so it may have changed.

  15. Gawd I hope I see this in NY!! Even growing up in Delhi hasn’t equipped me with the dexterity required to get on to NY metro. Have missed more than once! It’s madness!!

    @KE –Have you travelled by the metro in Delhi? Did you know that Delhi metro is air conditioned too (A. obviously not!) . Thank you for drawing conclusions on something you have not even experienced.

  16. KE, come on, avoid making assumptions before you post, and get out of the parochial “they don’t have AC and the tropics are unbearable” mindset.

    I have rode Delhi Metro, NY Subway as well as the T in Boston, and Delhi easily sweeps both of the other two.

    In regards to cameras, what exactly are the rules? I had no trouble taking pictures in elevated stations, but I don’t know if the rules change underground.

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