The Kalka Mail rolled into Delhi railway station at the scheduled time of 6.30 AM. I was booked to stay at the guest house of KRIBHCO in Noida. I stubbornly refused the offer of my friend for a vehicle. I was determined to experience the Delhi Metro that was being mentioned of in such glowing terms in the media and by people I had interfaced with. Therefore, as soon as I came out of the Delhi station I made a beeline for the Metro station. Frankly, at that hour I expected the Metro to be relatively free of commuters. I was horribly wrong. There were four queues that had more than 50 people each to buy tickets. I got over that problem by going to the ‘Smart Card’ counter. The card entailed a deposit of Rs. 50 and the balance was available for journeys. The card afforded a small discount for every journey. Buying the card was the smallest of the issues. Getting into the train was ‘the’ experience. The platform was full to capacity with passengers. The G4 Security guys were more ornaments than effective interceptors to avoid the pushing and shoving which happens at the doors of the train. The travel from Delhi to Noida City Centre was completed in less than 45 minutes, but was agonizing for the crush load and the fact that I had to stand with the heavy luggage strung to my back for there was not enough space to put them on the floor of the coach.
After getting ready at the KRIBHCO guest house and breakfast I left for the Railway Board to get my reservation done for the journey to Cochin. This time I decided to travel in the luxury of IAC by Rajdhani Express. It is considered among the luxuries of travel in India. As a retired officer of the Indian Railways I am entitled to IAC travel by paying one third of the fare difference between IAC and IIAC. A colleague got the reservation done and assured a confirmed berth through emergency quota allotment.
It was the Metro once again to go to the Delhi Divisional Office to meet Sajeesh Kumar, Senior Divisional Manager who had coordinated most of my accommodation during the journey. He was due a few words of gratitude. It is persons such as these who still make you feel part of the community of railway employees, whether retired or otherwise. That done it was off to the CGO complex to meet with Sudhir Pratap Singh, IPS, an erstwhile railway colleague and bosom friend. He had just been posted to the CRPF from his home cadre of Rajasthan. As I walked into the office he gave me the news of his being posted to Srinagar. For an outdoor person like Sudhir I personally felt that it was an apt posting, even though he may have liked to be in Delhi. He is a great host. A line I will always remember him for is: Bhaiyya, kuch badhiya vyavastha karna hai; yeh mera khas dost hain, mere bhai jaisa (Brother, you have to make some exceptional arrangements; he is my very dear friend, like my brother). While chatting with Sudhir bondas, badushaa and lime tea passed through without being a hindrance to the conversation. Since Leh will be part of his jurisdiction I requested him to flag off the Leh-Kanyakumari record breaking attempt in July.
The Metro experience at New Delhi was not very pleasant. The security arrangement was woefully inadequate to meet the number of passengers who were aggregating there to take the Metro trains to various destinations. The frisking and x-ray machines are mere formalities at the stations. The rush of passengers with a variety of baggage makes it impossible to do a proper job of it. Maybe these arrangements serve as a deterrent. Surely it serves to slow down the flow and create bottlenecks. I feel that the number of coaches have to be increased per train during working days and the door closing time has to be different in stations that handle larger number of passengers. The security personnel have to play a more proactive role in preventing pushing and shoving. Girls and single ladies have to be told to take the first coach that is reserved for them. Invariably this coach is less occupied and the other coaches are crush loaded. All in all, one must admit that the Metro is the fastest way to move around in Delhi today. Some more inputs are urgently needed to cater to the burgeoning patronization.