Friday, March 8, 2013

One train, two perspectives

The vanity attached to doing or attempting something before others do is exhilarating. That way, I should admit I’m even a bit jealous of all those veteran bloggers who took up to blogging years ago! Coming to the point, I pride myself on being one of the early adopters of Bangalore's Metro rail system. Having ridden the metro trains in Paris, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Rome and Kolkata, I was yearning to ride one in my own city. This dream came true with the flag-off of ‘Namma metro’.  'Namma metro' became 'nanna' metro in just a few days of its launch.

Bangalore Metro trains. Courtesy: Google image search

The glossy stations, spic-n-span platforms, prim purple trains, blinking auto  turnstiles – all may seem normal to a well-travelled Bangalorean, but to the average Indian, they are still eye candy and larger than life. That also explains why the train was running full for the first few days despite the little distance covered.  A ride on the metro is still on top of the weekend to-do list for many people, including families with children.

Talking about the ride itself, it is a smooth one, no doubt. But to me, it is a ride that is thought provoking, enlightening. One may ask why. This is why. For the first time in Bangalore, we have a place where people from different rungs of the society congregate.  Men in business suits and women in stilettos, construction labourers, loud and giggly college girls, sari and flower clad ladies, families with children - all travelling side by side makes for a very interesting, uncommon sight. It evokes in me, a sense of relief. Think about it, this city is known for being extremely hostile to the urban poor and the middle class(read, the Ejipura eviction). In Bangalore, even buses have classes. The poor ride the ordinary buses and Pushpaks while the Vajras and Vayu Vajras cater to the elite crowd. The rich turn to  malls, bowling alleys, multiplexes etc. for recreation while the poor still go to cubbon park, lal bagh and museums. The urban poor's hands are tightly bonded; they are the ones bearing the brunt of the rising social inequality. Be it basic needs like conveyance, sanitation and health care to recreational activities, their options are grossly limited.  Thanks to this new mode of transport, they, for a change, have a clean place to hang out without shelling out a bomb.  After all, isn’t it cost-effective for an entire poor/middle class family to hop on an a/c train and enjoy the joyride than do anything else in this expensive city?

Well, that is just one way of looking at it.  I’m sure the college girls are complaining already. The lewd stares from men are certainly bothering them. As the network expands to include the length and breadth of Bangalore, ‘Namma metro’ is likely to build up its own repository of harassment stories.  Even the plush people from posh areas may not be very amused. The other day, there was this lady who was visibly annoyed by the little boy constantly peeking into her laptop; and there was the mother of the boy, who was occasionally comparing her hairy hands to the other woman’s waxed hands. Bangalore’s inequality packed into one shocking frame!  Yes, shell-shocked I was, but relieved by the promise the sight held. The promise of bringing the city’s elite closer to the poor. The promise of making them FEEL equal, at least in some sense.

Today, with a meagre station count of 6 covering less than 9 kilometres, the system isn’t that great or happening yet.  However, a few years down the line, I can visualize it becoming the lifeline of the city and people taking it for granted, when I would proudly proclaim, “It used to be my metro. Now it’s our metro!”


  1. "Namma metro" as a potential weapon to tackle economic inequality in the society is a very interesting perspective! Very well written article, Malini!

  2. Good one malini!!! really thought provoking. Hope this affordability continues for those normal people as well.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your valuable comment Gomathi!Please do drop in often!