The Day the Metro Stood Still

May 9, 2016

For a while, anyway.

It was around 6:30 PM when I reached the station. The day seemed to be coming down slowly as I heaved my backpack through the security checkpoint, up the stairs and into the metro.

With no seats being available, (which is the usual case) I stood leaning on the glass that bordered a row of seats, near the door. Soon enough, the voice chimed, and the doors went shut.

But the metro didn’t move.

This happened sometimes, and thus I just stood there staring blankly into the void. After a while, I felt hungry, and so I took out my way-past-lunch box and started eating, an activity I would have loved to do while being seated, but fate didn’t approve of it.

Minutes passed. Till then, people had tried to gently knock open the metro door, as if they were trying to enter someone’s home, a weird couple had smiled at me for a minute while I was eating and I’d finished the monotonous activity of chewing all my meal.

And then, I waited. A whole 15 minutes must have passed when finally the metro moved.

It went on for some time, with people cramming in like none of their business. It was a Wednesday, around 7 PM. I should have known better. I went on looking over people’s shoulders trying to find out which secret they were trying to text their buddies.

The metro came to a halt again at Mayur Vihar, where it stood again for around 10 minutes before moving. Nobody significant entered or exited.

It stopped again. This time not at a station, but just around 100 metres before Yamuna Bank. I was getting fed up, but the other option was complaining out loud about how the metro sucks and how we should press the ‘emergency’ button and talk to the driver like other people in my compartment were doing.

I stuck to being silent.

Finally, the metro moved again and reached the Yamuna Bank metro station in what seemed like an eternity.

After repeating customary lines like - “Ma’am, could you please get aside?” or “Excuse me, sir.”, I finally got out of the metro and went to the other platform.

What I noticed was a big ruckus. Also, people taking selfies.

Evidently, a metro hadn’t arrived to go to Vaishali for such a long time that a herd of people had assembled at the place. Every time a horn blared, the people whistled and chanted only to discover that the metro arriving wasn’t the one they were waiting for.

Some people just gave up and sat beside the stairs in the hope that a metro might come. Others teetered on the edge of the platform to look for any sign of lights approaching from the horizon.

Then there were the people who raised their phones up through the crowd. Some were looking at their video camera to catch a glimpse of the metro; others were just taking a selfie. What in god’s name.

Me? I stood there without a single shred of hope that I was getting home anytime soon. Even if a metro did arrive, the already overflowing metro wouldn’t have accommodated 1% of the herd standing there, and I wasn’t going to be a part of that 1%.

And so, I called up my father to get me out of there and thus began my journey to reach the extraction point. Just to get out well and alive.

I moved down and straight with a sea of people also attempting to exit the station. You didn’t need to move at all, actually. The people pushing from behind carried you with them. I went along the tide. It moved slowly and painfully. I finally managed to reach the top, only to discover that the rate of people exiting vs. the people coming in was highly disproportionate.

Everybody pushed.

Finally, the authorities gave in, and the door was forced open. Nobody was to swipe their card, a benefit for the metro service as they could now take quite an amount of penalty money from us. I did hear some women shouting from behind me, but at the moment couldn’t figure out whether it was directed at me or someone else. I continued pushing, and everyone came out to a dreary night.

I started walking immediately because that’s what everyone else seemed to be doing at the moment.

More than a thousand people walked on the left side of the road that went out of the Yamuna Bank station. Nobody had discussed this amongst each other, but there seemed to be a silent truce that vehicles on the right, people on the left.

I broke off the crowd for a moment and looked in the distance. I was at a religious tourist attraction where a line of people was moving along to get a glimpse of their God. For the moment, that God never seemed to arrive.

People were still taking selfies.

I noticed a few individuals disappearing under what seemed to be the tracks. There was a huge crowd gathered round, and when I tried to look down, I was met with thorns from a bush. I suffered thorns in my arm trying to fend off the enemy. A person warned me that thorns were dangerous foes and I thought it better to move along further down the road.

After a few more minutes of walking, I finally saw my destination. I was sweating like I had just run a marathon and carrying the heavy backpack had been a nightmare, but there was the brightly lit main road. Now, just the wait.

I was thirsty when I finally did reach and looked around if I could find water or a soft drink anywhere. There, I found a small stall managed by a senior man. He looked fed up of the crowd that was demanding stuff from him but obliged anyway. This was probably his most successful night after all. My attempts were unsuccessful, though, as water seemed to have run out and he was busier giving people Marlboro and Captain than giving me anything to drink.

I left and stood there, looking at the long line of cars that blocked the road and wondered how long it would take for dad to arrive.

For the first good news of the day, he came soon enough. I sat in the extraction vehicle, a Chevrolet Sail (the best in class) and we took off. There I noticed how far people had come from the station. They were probably going to walk home.

But I don’t know. I was in the car, and a tiring journey was now over. I felt momentary pity for them as I leaned back and dozed off.

(This is an exaggerated account of the 8th July 2015 minor metro snag that occurred when a metro stopped due to a problem in the electrical lines.)