In the fast-paced life of Delhi, Metro is providing an excellent venue for romance in transit
Romance is such a privilege for the rich. They have host of places to date — hotel, spa, bar, cafes, even their own posh dwellings. But for a member of the lower middle class, or even the working class, in many cases a family of 12 are huddled in a two- bedroom house, to be shared with three married couples, privacy is the obvious causalty.
The question arises: Where do they meet their love interest? Bars and café are too expensive. For decades, Delhi couples could be seen meeting in public parks, spending the day under the shade of a tree, holding hands. For instance, it’s a common sight in Lodi Gardens during the day, even in scorching summer, to find a couple huddled together behind a hedge or under a bush, trying to steal a few moments of intimacy.
Then the Delhi Metro happened. Over the years, its network has widened like veins on a leaf and thousands of people commute every day. Not only has it revolutionised the way people commute, it has provided an excellent venue for young lovers to come together, do some hand-holding and plan a life together.
It’s difficult to miss a young couple sitting on the stairs, or taking multiple round trips on the Metro. Lovers often meet up at a junction where two lines converge, to ride the Metro together. Some have even adjusted their routes or even shifted to a new rented accommodation, especially college students, to be able to commute together. And there are cases where two strangers who regularly meet on Metro stations because of similar timings, fall in love.
Think of it, Metro stations are thousands of square feet of air-conditioned space, found in nearly all the parts of the city, and are a quick and comfortable way to commute. Paradoxically, anonymity in the crowd offers necessary privacy.
Like Ernest Hemingway famously wrote in A Moveable Feast, “The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together.” Metro stations are, perhaps, a latter-day manifestation of Hemingway’s big café. Dating couples — as also cheating couples — get lost in the crowd of a Metro platform or lobby. They can also get cheap snacks over coffee, tea or a cold drink.
There are some who prefer less crowd, and newer metro stations provide excellent venues. Lal Quila station is one of them. College students Aarhita and Vishal, spend some quality time together after class every day as it is less crowded here. It’s ironic that they have to meet here for they live in the same paying guest accommodation with other friends. They find that they don’t get private time together in the company of friends. They can often be sighted sitting on the floor against one of the pillars at Lal Quila.
In a city like Delhi, even during rush hour, safety remains a concern. And Metro infrastructure, with CISF security in place, is perceived as a fairly safe place. Safety not just from the unforeseen dangers, but from family, friends and acquaintances. A teenage couple, who have been dating for a few months now, finds Metro a ‘safe zone’ from parents. “I know my parents don’t commute by Metro. So, there is no fear of being caught ‘red handed’,” says Priya (name changed). Her paramour Himanshu (name changed) concurs. ITO station is their preferred venue to hang out together.
When asked about their best date at Metro, Priya says: “Once we caught a train from ITO, then got down at Delhi Gate. We sat there for a while, then went to Jama Masjid. Then we travelled back to ITO. It was fun.” They claim to have had more dates in ‘safe’ Metro stations than in ‘risky’ cafes, restaurants or parks.
Even married couples come here to spend time together holding hands. Rajesh and Manju, in their late twenties, have been married for six months. It’s an arranged marriage and they come spend time together sitting on the steps of Nehru Place Metro station “to get to know each other better.”
They stay in a three-room flat in Kalkaji Extension with Rajesh’s parents, his elder brother, and three unmarried siblings. They sleep in the kitchen, where their matrimonial bliss is punctuated by frequent interruptions. They hardly ever get to talk to each other as every inch of the house is occupied by one or the other family member. “It’s so much fun to come here and talk with my husband,” says Manju in Hindi. She hails from a family of farmers in Hapur. “This is the first time I’m dating my own husband,” she laughs.
Even staffers of the Metro and security personnel deployed there sometimes get into a romantic liaison, as well. Shruti (name changed), 25, got a job with Delhi Metro a year ago. Her duty is to guide commuters across the new ticket-reader machines. There’s a young CISF guard, Bhupinder, tall, slim with affable features, stationed behind an armoured bunker with a gun jutting out to keep vigil on commuters some ten metres away from where Shruti spends eight hours every day.
They have developed a liking for each other, exchange smiles every time they have an eye contact, throughout the day, oblivious of the fact that people around are observing this private tête-à-tête. They first dated about a month back during their off-duty hours in a Metro station other than the one in which they are posted. Love has blossomed since.
Proving, once again, that the Metro provides an excellent venue for romance in transit.
By Mihir Srivastava with inputs from Shruti Das and Proma Chakraborty