The eclectic world of Delhi Metro’s lost-and-found
It’s around 1pm, and a sling bag has just been brought to Anil Kumar’s desk at the Delhi Metro’s Lost and Found Office (LFO) at the Kashmere Gate Metro station
It’s around 1pm, and a sling bag has just been brought to Anil Kumar’s desk at the Delhi Metro’s Lost and Found Office (LFO) at the Kashmere Gate Metro station. He opens the bag, which was found on a train on the Yellow Line, and discovers a mobile phone, a small box of homoeopathic medicine, face lotion, keys, and two coins.
However, the bag has no identity cards, and since the mobile is locked, there is no way to ascertain who this bag belongs to. Thus, he assigns it a number, and the bag is consigned to a shelf in the office.
“Now we have no choice but to wait for someone to claim it,” says Anil Kumar, who manages the LFO with fellow station controller Dinesh Kumar -- the custodians of all things lost on the Delhi Metro.
Items forgotten on the Metro are usually spotted by train drivers at terminal stations, who alert security personnel. The security personnel in turn hand them over to station authorities, where these items remain for 48 hours, and if still unclaimed, are sent to the LFO.
Every year, around 10,000 articles make their way to the LFO, with Anil Kumar and Dinesh Kumar meticulously listing their details on paper, which is then uploaded online.
However, many items still remain unclaimed, and the LFO shelves are crammed with thousands of articles -- bags, soft toys, watches, tiffin boxes, water bottles, carpets, cameras, clothes, rings, nebulisers, mobile phones, even a 42-inch LCD television, which someone left behind on the Blue Line.
“Not long ago, we also found a bag with over ₹77, 000 in cash, which was returned to its owner,” says Anil Kumar.
Only about 10% of the items at the LFO are ever claimed, and most unclaimed items are auctioned off, barring mobile phones. “We do not auction mobile phones as they could have very important and personal data,” says Mohan Mahesh Sharma, senior station manager at Kashmere Gate.
“Unfortunately, most phones that come here are locked. If a phone is unlocked, we search the directory for familial names such as Papa, Mummy, Hubby or Wifey,” says Dinesh Kumar.
According to Dinesh Kumar, the LFO’s helpline rings every few minutes. “We get almost 120 calls every day, and over 100 people visit the office looking for their lost items,” he says.
One of the many visitors is Roop Mala, who has come looking for a lost bag. Her eyes light up as she spots a yellow bag on one of the shelves. “There it is! It has a sari and a calendar, please check,” she says. Dinesh Kumar checks the bag, and then makes her fill out a form before handing the bag over to her.
Anil Kumar says opening others’ bags is quite a strange feeling, a peek into the lives of others. Most women’s bags, he says, have cosmetics, while men’s wallets usually have cash and documents such as Aadhaar cards, credit cards, and identity cards. “Recently, I found handwritten pages in a wallet, in which the man had written an elaborate account of his day. He was distressed and perhaps wrote a daily diary,” he says.
He says many of the lost articles may look like ordinary, everyday items, but they have a special place for their owners. “Recently, a woman came hunting for a shawl that her mother had gifted to her the day before she died. Another visitor was a young man who came hunting for an umbrella that he associated with the memory of his grandfather,” he says.
Some visitors to the office, Dinesh Kumar says, are familiar faces, including a mother and daughter who visit the office every few months. “But none of their lost items have ever been found. Then, there are those who make claims over items in our office, but then they are tripped up by a written questionnaire we give them to verify their claims,” he says.