I am in Singapore now. Sounds ironic eh? To blog about a city that is so unlike the city I now find myself in!
But what is strange is that something about Singapore today constantly reminded me of Delhi, so much so that although the content of this post was meant to be the last of the Delhi Diaries – I find myself all eager to write about it!
What am I talking about? The one ‘new addition’ to Delhi in my academic year gone by that I experienced, which contributed to a changed lens of the way I perceived the city.
The Delhi Metro. The one mode of public transport bequeathed to the class-conscious city that has according to Prof. Amita Baviskar (http://elearning.lse.ac.uk/dart/interviews/baviskar.html) “…the overwhelming approval of the middle class“, hence is a great equaliser across castes, class, races, educational institutes and different areas of Delhi.
But unlike Singapore – where the queues and the MRT, the escalators, the way people flow from one train and transit station to another and the Smart thingies (ping. ping. ping it rings all the day)… all spell ‘O-R-D-E-R’ and ‘organised’ … DMDC still retains the old paradox; Order from Chaos.
One sees i-pod dangling girls in stoles and scarves rummaging through their class notes and humming along, one hand tightly clasping to the railings or poles. Hawkers and Vendors find their way despite luggage and security restrictions, adding colour and flavour to the compartment. Noisy passengers, quiet passengers, the occasional lone foreign woman or group of commuters who are touring Delhi for the first time, guidebooks and cameras in hand. Scores and scores of salesmen, technicians, men with briefcases and backpacks of different shapes and sizes.
How easy it is to guess people’s stops based on what they are wearing! Once to my utter delight, a whole group of Bandwalas trooped in – with their instruments and caps finding the way to some nearby seats as they all assembled standing around it! (Tagore Garden to Uttam Nagar)
There is order in the Delhi Metro; modeled very similar to the Singapore Metro in aesthetics and functionality. One notable difference is that while in Delhi the track is periliously open (Think Vidya Balan being pushed in front of a train in Kahaani causing the Kolkata Metro to legal action against the filmmakers ) Singapore has the tracks locked and in full control too.
And yet, there are aspects to the Delhi Metro which make it refreshingly unique (read- chaotic)
-Those pink carriages up front. God Bless the Man or (wo)man who suggested the measure that allow for lone women some breathing space from the ceaseless prying of male eyes!
-The manner by which women organise themselves during the rush hours, sometimes twenty women in the space meant for ten.
-How people actually fall into a queue without the Metro Guards constantly having to whistle you down at Rajiv Chowk and Central Secretariat! For Delhi’s jugaadu (a Delhi phrase, forgive the cultural references there) citizenry to align themselves into compliance, voluntarily is no ordinary feat.
-How lives improved drastically for thousands of migrants and a mobile population to earn an honest living within Delhi despite residing in the satellite towns.
-How perceptions about accessibility, even the city’s boundaries have now been re-defined because somewhere in the minds of ‘North vs South’ Delhi-ite or ‘East vs West’ Delhi-ite, there is an awareness that a Metro station that exists there!
As I watch people move wordlesslessly in and out of the MRT in Singapore, fall into line of order in more order – while clumsy me is conscious of every move I make, lest I do not topple over a dear Chinese lady on crutches … somewhere I am still comforted that even the sparkling ‘new and modern’ Metro of Delhi still encapsulates paradoxical Delhi .
Bringing Order into Chaos, and still leaving room for some Chaos in order.