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Bonding on Metro

As the large digital clock on the platform displays the time in bright red — 8.55 am — the Metro appears on the other end of the curved track, slithering towards the station, reports Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: Oct 10, 2009 00:01 IST

As the large digital clock on the platform displays the time in bright red — 8.55 am — the Metro appears on the other end of the curved track, slithering towards the station.

Standing at the Dwarka Sector 10 Metro station, the sub city in the background with its neatly planned housing societies and wide avenues still looks heavy eyed.

At the station, it is peak traffic hour.

With a sharp hoot the train arrives and the sleepy station comes to life. As the train door opens, the commuters rush in to find a seat for the nearly hour-long journey towards central Delhi, where their offices are located.

Enakshi Saha is one of the firsts to dart in and with a glance mastered over five years of Metro travel, signals her friend Suman where to find a seat.

Saha, a 48-year-old government employee, settle downs in her seat and so does Suman (who goes by only one name), who is a manager in a public sector bank. A few restive seconds later, the train doors close and the Metro resumes its journey.

Saha sees a few more known faces in the still thin crowd, all women co-travellers who take the 8.55 Metro every morning to their offices. Quick nods and smiles follows.

When the Sahas first moved to Dwarka in 2004, there was no Metro. She had to take a long and tedious journey to her Jhandewalan office in central Delhi, which involved a rickshaw ride, lot of walking and changing two rickety buses.

Metro reached the sub city six months later and now, the daily commute is a comfortable, air-conditioned 45-minute trip. And it is not a boring journey anymore.

Saha now has her ‘Metro friends’ to share her journey to Jhandewalan with. These women, who live in apartments near the Dwarka Sector 10 Metro station, are in the age group of 30 to 50 who take the Metro everyday to office and back home.

“The power cuts at night are getting too long now. I haven’t slept well in days,” said 27-year-old Swapna Nath, an architect working with a Connaught Place based firm, her book marked Robin Cook still firmly in hand.

“I know, I almost missed the morning train today because I woke up so late,” Saha said, looking up from the Bengali magazine she had just opened.

For the nearly one hour train commute from Dwarka to areas like Jhandewalan, Rajender Nagar and Connaught Place where their offices are located, these women — bank managers, government employees, teachers and architects — talk about college admission of their sons and daughters, long power cuts, difficult mothers-in-law, truant maids, the sixth pay commission or books.

“Even if I don’t take the Metro at the same time, I meet someone or the else I know from the daily train journey. From wage revisions to problems in finding a maid, we discuss everything,” said Ambika Zutshi (45), who works in a private bank in Connaught Place and is another member of the group.

The train halts at Dwarka Sector 14 and 57-year-old government employee A. Jacob troops in. A smile appears on his face as he sees a known face, Satyajit Kumar (25), a chartered accountant working with a Noida based firm, sitting at a coveted corner seat.

“Where can I find an Axis Bank ATM here? I was looking for one yesterday but couldn’t find one,” said Kumar, pulling the mobile headphone out of his ears. Kumar has recently shifted to Dwarka.

“Oh, there are quite a few. There is one near the station itself,” Jacob said while sitting next to him.

There is camaraderie among the men too, who travel regularly in the Metro. They don’t have cosy groups though and they don't discuss their mothers-in-law.

“There are many people you get to know who travel regularly and acknowledge with nods. We usually discuss politics or current affairs and before you know, your destination has arrived,” Jacob said.

Long maligned as a soulless city, it is a different Delhi that you witness in peak time Metro. Inside its cool confines, the Metro has created a unique social sphere where perfect strangers can meet and bond over hour-long journeys.

Romance is what Jatinder Chatwal (41), who boards the train from Janakpuri West, is excited about; romance of the onscreen variety. He has watched Love Aaj Kal recently and is itching to share the story with his train friends.

The train is packed by now but Chatwal, who works for United Nations, knows where to find his regular co-travellers.

“Whoever among us sees a new film first gives a review for others benefit. Only if he or she likes the film, others go to watch it,” he said. There are other benefits of travelling together too.

“Many colleagues of mine take the same train and it has helped break barriers in the office. From top officials to junior ranked employees, everyone travels in the Metro,” he said.

As the train crosses the thickly populated areas and nears the central commercial district, more and more commuters start alighting.

After traversing 34.2 km and touching 32 stations, the train finally ends its journey at the Yamuna Bank station at 10.15 am.