The phone rang, I was still half asleep, it was my friend on the other side. In an excited high pitch tone she asked me to hurry up and make it to Cannaught Place in Delhi by an hour cause we were to meet and she had limited time. Getting to Cp in an hour would mean, to get up, brush, attend nature’s call and bath, all in a matter of 15 minutes (humanly impossible) followed by an almost sprint to the metro station, bypassing the semi molesting check by the women guards, getting the bag cleared and then making a dash to the stairs leading up to the station. All that done and in an almost a blow to your panting, losing breath efforts you see the metro you wish to take gliding away with people from within passing that sadist smile making you aware of your failure in the game called, ‘survival of the ‘swiftest’’. Once inside the metro begins the game of exchanging gazes. The fact of you being an object of observation fully dawns upon you once inside the Delhi metro. As if the semi-molesting guard woman who checks you at the entrance had not done her bit, there’s another eye scanner you are put through by your fellow passengers. The girls might scan you for your clothes and men? Well they really don’t need a reason.
Well now that we have a whole compartment to ourselves, women can breathe easier (both metaphorically and literally). However, earlier, the mere task of getting into the metro made you feel as victorious and triumphant as Alexander himself. Being short in height by conventional and all other standards, I have had some terrible experiences myself. Standing amidst tall towering men I have had to struggle to find place to perch my feet and contest for the limited breathing space with my fellow passengers. And then the nose lacking the necessary filter for foul smells and pungent odours, there is not much one can do but to incorrigibly wait for your destination. Then there’s another struggle for holding on to the handles meant for support, well for those as short as me, we have to make do with body balance, stretch out your feet wide, arms on side, and pray that the metro doesn’t take abrupt screechy halts.
However, direct your attention to the people around and you might earn yourself a little entertainment for no cost. Wailing babies, men sleeping and even snoring even while standing, people with headphones in their ears harmonically bobbing their heads, conversations of last night’s match, the latest movie, who died and made a comeback in the daily, share market, love, friendship and the usual cribbing about the Delhi weather which is more often than not disappointing and debilitating.
Then a look at those who are regally seated; they appear to almost recreate the look of a peaceful serenity that Buddha would have reflected under the tree where he got enlightened. If getting in the metro was Alexandrous, then getting a seat is like a colonial conquer. Those who are left standing are the damned lot who curse their Karma for being so unfortunate as to not get a seat. Over the months some even devise a scheme of prowl and vigil and sneak a seat when it is vacated on the rarest of occasions. It’s a 3 step deal: look, lurk and grab. However, the calmness and contentment of those with seats is fairly short lived, because invariably there’d be someone to dishevel their god-sent peace, trying to adjust his/her ass for that little extra space left in the otherwise packed bench.
However, despite all this and more, metro still remains to be the most preferred medium of conveyance. It’s air conditioned, takes lesser time to reach any place in Delhi and is a much better alternative than the overpriced autos and the much maligned blue line. So I brace myself, walking to the women’s compartment with a cheerful gait ignoring all the snide looks that men pass at any women for stealing away the special privilege of reservation. But do I care? I deserve it for all the lecherous and scathing glances I have endured and besides I have a friend waiting, who'll leave if I don't reach on time. :P