City Landmark – The Subway under Ring Road, South Extension
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
So, which side of the Ring Road is South Extension I and which side is South Extension II?
This confusion is one of the more formidable challenges of (south) Delhi existentialism. You may escape the conundrum by choosing the no man’s land, which is the neutral territory of the traffic-heavy Ring Road that divides part one from part two. Better still, you may want to dive deep down under this road, and that is possible, thanks to the South Extension subway. The passage connects 1 to II, with an additional set of staircase escorting the citizen deeper down into the Pink Line, the South Extension Metro station.
Just as Humayun Tomb predates the Red Fort, the subway predates the Metro station. It has also outlived many South Extension landmarks. At the turn of the millennium, cash-starved students living in nearby Kotla village would enjoy a cheap lunch of homey rajma chawal at KitKat Dhaba in South Extension I. The literary types among the diners might later walk into this subway and emerge out onto the other side, to the Crossword bookstore in South Extension II. All these destinations are history. Another long departed landmark was the pavement stall in South Extension I that stocked thousands of secondhand Mills & Boon novels. Also gone: the Rhthym House in South Extension II that stocked audio cassettes (and later, CDs). It stood beside the short-lived Planet M music showroom where young Delhiites gyrated to RD Burman remixes on the dance floor—in the afternoon hours!
This afternoon, the market crowd is busily shoving its way through the subway, past the long corridor lined with shuttered stores. The sound of hurry-hurry footsteps is echoing off the walls. Among the moving muggles, a subway guard is sitting motionless on a ramshackle chair under the blue signages (“spitting is prohibited in this subway, 5000 rupees fine on being caught”). The hustle-bustle of the place is collapsing around this guard, into stillness and silence
Now a food delivery man enters the subway, dragging his bicycle down the stairs. He pauses in the middle of the corridor, and looks around confusedly (may be he is figuring out directions to 1 and II.)
The most exquisite part of the South Extension subway experience has to be the staircase that opens into part I. As you climb the steps, all you you see above is the wide mouth of the exit emptying into a great void of the sky. While the commuters entering the subway appear to be stepping in straight from space. The sight is incredible—see top and last photos.
In no man’s land