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‘I got taken for quite a ride!’

I am from Kolkata — the city that had the first Metro in India. When I first moved to Delhi, I thought the Metro would be very easy to negotiate because I am familiar with the process. The first time I travelled in a Metro, I was supposed to go from Rajiv Chowk to Connaught Place – the station for which is Rajiv Chowk.

Firstly, I had no idea that there are so many lines connecting the whole city. I though it will be a single line, like those in Kolkata. But when I reached the Delhi Gate Metro station, I saw a map which indicated the numerous coloured lines – like a rainbow-coloured spider web!

The first problem I faced was locating my destination. The map was so huge and the letters so small, it took me 10-15 minutes to figure out which line I should take. Another daunting factor was the fare — which I felt is too high. In Kolkata, I used to commute daily from home to college —from south Kolkata to extreme north. The travel time was about 90 minutes and that cost only Rs 12.

But in Delhi, a ride from Delhi Gate to Rajiv Chowk —which is just a 10-minute ride — costs around Rs 20. And when I go to my uncle’s place in Gurgaon from Delhi Gate, it costs me Rs 60. The Metro is supposed to be the most common and accessible mode of transport here, thus the fare should be consumer friendly, but it is not.

Then there are these automatic token vending machines, which sometimes have no staff who can show you or guide you. The first time I went there, I could not figure out where to place the note. After a while, I figured it out and placed a Rs 10 note but the machine made a loud beeping noise and gave the note back. Several such attempts failed. So I had to ask a Metro official. He said, “Your notes are old, you need new, crisp notes. The machines will only accept those.” This was surprising. I thought, ‘First you need to get fresh notes out of the bank to travel in a Metro!’

There is also a problem when commuters have to change lines. On that first ride, I was supposed to change at Mandi House. I missed the station, then had to get down and travel back to Mandi House. From there, it got confusing. I had no idea from which platform I should board the train towards Rajiv Chowk. There were two platforms — one for trains going to Noida and another to Dwarka. By mistake I took a train to Noida. After 2-3 stations, I got to know I was going in the wrong direction. Again, I got down at Yamuna Bank and took a train towards Rajiv Chowk.

When I finally reached Rajiv Chowk, it looked nothing like a Metro station. It was like an airport! There is a Burger King, Café Coffee Day, Starbucks —and what looked like thousands of people. I have not seen such a huge Metro station in my life.

No wonder, after this first experience, it took me two to three months to get accustomed to the daily commute in Delhi.

Pratip Banerjee is a journalist

— As told to Shruti Das

‘It’s scary at night’

I have been living in Delhi for a few months now. The place I come from, Vijaywada, there is no Metro. So, for the first time when I was traveling in a Metro in Delhi, it was all very new for me. I have heard people saying that the Delhi Metro is confusing, because of all the different coloured lines. But as an outsider, I have come across various issues which I would like to share.

Firstly, there is a lack of security men at various spots. The Metro stations here are big, and the main exit is far from the Concourse — the area which has the ticket counter, the gate to punch tickets, ticket vending machines, Metro staff and so on. But sometimes when I go home late at night, it feels unsafe to take that walk from the Concourse to the exit.

Though there are CCTVs, they can’t prevent a crime being committed. What if someone molests me or snatches my bag and flees? I once saw a kid switching off the escalator button, as a result of which it stopped. I was leaving the station but I went back and informed the staff. I thought: What if an elderly woman or man comes and then they will have to walk up the long flights of stairs? All these activities go unnoticed by the staff present there.

The same thing applies to the lift area. There are no guards outside or inside the lifts. Someone might do anything at gunpoint and can get away with it.

Another issue is that some Metro stations don’t have platform screen doors – which I feel should be installed on all the platforms to help prevent accidents and suicides. Also, there’s so much rush in the office hours. It gets so congested and crowded, one can have trouble breathing.

Lastly, I don’t find the Metro staff very helpful. As outsiders, we have trouble finding our way and we would appreciate it if they showed more willingness to help. But most of them are not cordial; some of them are even rude and refuse to give guidance when asked.

— As told to Shruti Das