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Metro at my doorstep

Commuting on the last mile to Dilshad Garden was a pain for Ghaziabad residents till the Red Line finally reached Rajendra Nagar

My grandparents moved to Delhi after their marriage from a village near Karnal when my granny decided that she was not going to make cowdung cakes for the rest of her life. We lived with them in Delhi for about 18 years, until 2012, when I moved to Kangra to study design.

My family relocated to Ghaziabad, an attempt to escape the harrowing noise of a city, be it the towering houses rented out to people from different cities or the petty fights over parking space. Rajendra Nagar, my current residence, is indeed a planned locality in Ghaziabad, about 4 km from Delhi, where I see people retiring in peace with no desire to rent out extra space to outsiders.

In those four years when I was studying in Kangra and spending holidays in Ghaziabad, and in last three years commuting to Delhi for work, what I despised the most was travelling on the 4-km stretch on Grand Truck Road that connects my locality to Delhi.

It takes a rickshaw ride worth Rs 10 and a shared auto ride worth Rs 7 to reach Delhi border, where Dilshad Garden Metro station acts as our gateway to Delhi.

What makes this stretch super dreadful are the ill-designed shared autos run by drivers that would fit 10 passengers in a vehicle made for five and will not move until it is full. Apart from the recent arrival of Ola and Uber, it has been the only regular transport that connects a whole lot of Ghaziabad to Delhi through the clouds of dust in summer and waterlogging in the rains.

I remember hating these shared autos as a 5-year-old, when my granny would bring me to meet relatives on this side of the border. Squeezing into these open vehicles that would make (and still do) their own rattling noise plus the driver’s favourite playlist on full volume as they sped through the broken GT road.

I have fallen inside the auto due to sudden breaks. I have dropped my bag and broken my laptop. I have sat in my father’s car in the middle of a jam and pools of rainwater and watched steam coming out of the car’s bonnet. I have seen an iPhone being snatched out of a co-passenger’s hand as we sat in an auto through the long traffic jams and be able to do nothing about it. Now imagine what happens when this road is dedicated to Kanwariyas for an entire week.

After going through all of those ordeals and a desperate wait of six years watching the pillars being erected and stations being constructed, Delhi metro finally initiated its service for Ghaziabad commuters by adding eight more stations till New Bus Adda, extending the redline by the Dilshad Garden (East Delhi) end of it.

It is a dream ride now from  Major Mohit Sharma Rajendra Nagar Metro Station that is a short walk from my house, 800 metres. After a few hiccups in the first couple of days, and a bridge that feels a little wobbly, it feels nice to be there on the Metro map, to be included in NCR’s development.

Poast brand new station amenities and platforms, the train glides down the area I hated so much. Instead of braving the dust suspended in the air close to the ground, we see the skyline of new Ghaziabad.

I was totally enjoying traveling in the Metro until last Thursday as I entered a pristine elevator to exit Rajendra Nagar Metro Station. There I saw a whole lot of paan spat in a corner. Shocked and helpless, I could not help but agree with the image Ghaziabad has. I think we do not deserve any service from the government if we cannot respect it. The muck as been cleaned but there is no guarantee that it will not happen again.

After speaking to some autorickshaw drivers out of around 3,000 that ply on this stretch, I have understood that most of them are suffering through a dip in their business of around 20-50%. Delhi Police officers at the toll collection point said that there is less vehicular traffic on this Delhi-UP border as many people are now choosing Metro instead of personal cars or cabs. The Metro has connected multiple Ghaziabad households to Delhi. The security officer at Dilshad Garden Metro Station shared that there is a 25% reduction in traffic exiting from that station.

Looking back on the old days, traveling in those shared autos was quite an experience. It opened my eyes to how the common man lives but it came with a lot of dust and respiratory infection on a bimonthly basis. I am glad I can travel in Metro and don’t have to shell out money for cabs but the shaky bridge
that connects the station’s concourse to the platform and the paan spatters are still a matter of concern.