There was a time not very long ago when the Metro of Delhi was touted as one of the best things to have happened to Delhi, the capital of India.
It still is but the commuters have started taking it for granted. The Delhi Metro which was once lavished with fulsome praise by none other than Prince Charles from the country which started the first metro known as the Tube is now slowly turning into a rowdy third class unreserved railway compartment.
Of course we can’t expect the same etiquettes among the people here that is prevalent in London. I did not agree earlier but now I also partly blame the uncontrolled population of India of most of our problems.
As the latest statistics reveal we are now 127,42,39,769 which is 17.25 per cent of the global population, according to the Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh or National Population Stabilization Fund (NPSF).
In a country where pushing, jostling and touching (appropriately or inappropriately is never an issue) while travelling in public transport or even while shopping in the neighbourhood market, I would appear as an alien if I talked about cities like London where commuters say sorry if they touch a fellow commuter by mistake.
I remain an idealist and positivism is part of my innate nature till date but judging by what I have been experiencing lately in the Metro which I use regularly this may not be possible for very long. I am talking of the Metro specifically because I had a feeling that people are at their best behavior in the Metro.
The same men who would turn the other way when seeing an elderly person or woman in a bus or a train had started offering their seats to them. So much so that even women with bags in their hands would stand up and offer their seats to senior citizens.
But of late all that is changing. Today the seats in the Metro are packed like sardine boxes typically like the third class compartments of the railways. There are at least 8 or 9 men jam-packed in seats meant for 6 persons. And they would not get up to offer their seats even if a woman with a child is standing next to them.
In fact last week I became the cause of a strange fight in the metro. I was in the queue at Rajiv Chowk when a young man in a hurry broke the queue and managed to grab one of the seats meant for women. At the next station a woman got in and asked him to vacate the seat which he did, reluctantly. But all hell broke loose when on seeing me the woman offered me her seat and in a state of absent- mindedness I accepted her offer. She sat down next to me on a general seat.
The young man totally lost his temper and started shouting at her, telling her to go and take a seat in the women’s coach as she had offered one of the seats reserved for ladies to me.
Seeing the commotion I immediately got up and told the man to take his seat if he felt so tired. He promptly sat down but his harangue against women continued unabated. Anyone who spoke became his target and ultimately he threatened one woman that he would see her outside. He finally left only when I asked the woman to call the woman’s Helpline.
Two days back at the Vaishali metro there was a huge commotion because two men got into fisticuffs because a young man broke the queue and occupied a seat. The fight continued till the injured man who had started bleeding finally called the CISF Helpline who took away both the parties at the next station.
Why have we started fighting like this? Is it some personal frustration or the confidence that law can do nothing to them. The worst part of this fight is that most of the times the topic shifts to reserved seats or coaches for women and here the unity of the entire male clan and their sniggers, if not caustic comments, prove that nothing has changed despite the AC comfort of the Metro compared to how we used to commute in the DTC buses in the good old days.
By Amitabh Srivastava