City Landmark – Khan Market Metro Stop

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Metro Dreams

The Metro would change Delhi’s face after a few more years – and accidents.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

A person does not belong to a place until he has someone dead under the ground. Does that apply to Delhi Metro, too? On the Sunday morning of July 12th, 2009, a pillar on the partially constructed Metro bridge in the tony GK-I suddenly collapsed killing six.

This was not the first tragedy in the short history of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). On another Sunday, in 2008, a chunk of the under-construction Metro flyover had come crushing over a blueline bus in Lakshmi Nagar killing its driver.

However, these accidents, horrible as they were, would be just a dot in the commemorative One Hundred Years of Delhi Metro.

In fact, the landmark occasion that made Delhi Metro truly Delhi’s was not even that cold December morning in 2002 when the Metro rail first ran for about five miles from Shahdara to Tees Hazari. The D-moment instead fell on 9.20am, July 18th, 2006, when Ms Paramjit Singh Kaur, 25, the resident of Ganesh Nagar in Janakpuri, jumped onto the Metro tracks from platform number two of the Chandni Chowk station, thereby stopping the traffic on the Central Secretariat-Vishwavidyalaya route for over 40 minutes.

That was the first suicide on Delhi Metro.

Suicide, of course, is an extremely private act of ultimate despair usually carried out in the seclusion of locked bedrooms. But when troubled souls find that sort of privacy at the top of Qutub Minar or on the underground platform of Chandni Chowk Metro station, it means that the said landmark has finally arrived. That it is now home to the city’s people.

Since then more attempts, not all successful, have taken place on the Metro tracks. But it would be unfair to judge Delhi Metro’s popularity only on the suicide scale. It is increasingly finding a more acceptable cultural reference: the Delhi Metro is becoming a familiar sight in Bollywood flicks.

While there are quite a few who have raised concerns about the harm that the Metro has done to the city’s environment (thousands of trees have been chopped off) and its aesthetic appeal, there are are those who feel proud about it. After all, just how many public services in Delhi respects time, cleanliness and yes, their users?

The venerable New York Times, too, noted, “The Metro, a rare example of efficiency, punctuality and world-class engineering in a country better known for crumbling infrastructure and perpetual gridlock on its roads and in its politics, is a point of pride for New Delhi residents.”

At the time of writing this piece, the Metro has three operational lines with 45-miles of track and 68 stations. By 2010 Commonwealth Games, it hopes to add another 121 kilometers and 79 more stations.

In this breathless countdown to the Games, the city’s landscape is in the midst of a furiously-paced makeover. A few more years – and accidents – later it would be tough to imagine that once there was no Khan Market Metro stop, no Metro rail route to Noida, no elevated Metro tracks in Nehru Place, no Metro station in Saket. Just as today it is difficult to digest that once there was no Metro to Old Delhi.

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'O' is Missing