Delhi Metro – Suitable Commuter, Central Secretariat
On the 20th anniversary of Delhi Metro.
[Photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A climate change professional and a literary critic, Nikhil Kumar shares a memorable episode of his reading life on the Metro.
“IT TOOK me around a hundred Metro rides, or a month-and-a-half to-and-fro from home to office, to read Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. All the 1474 pages of it.
“I became accustomed to the rhythms of the Metro when the one of the few lines was from C-Sec (Central Secretariat) to Vishwavidyalaya. Initially, I would jostle to find a perch, and after a few stations when one did find it, shrink in the seat—cowering like a sparrow before a gale in a niche—and doze off on the neighbour’s shoulder. Soon, I started reading in the commute. My favourite area for this activity is the wavy vestibule at the end of the bogies. Sometimes it can be jolty, and if you are reading a tome like A Suitable Boy, it can be hazardous to your wrist and also to the standing neighbour.
“The first time I had picked the novel, I didn’t get past a couple of hundred pages. Perhaps I needed the Metro’s munificence to immerse myself in the 1950s of the three-sided love of a young girl, the resonances of mofussil as well as Nehru’s India, the academic, juridical and courtesanal intrigue in Brahmpur and Calcutta, and the fertile words of Seth. In 2023, the book will turn 30, but the effortless charm, the easy romance, the witty rhymes, and the impersonal comfort of history it has, is ageless. I have returned to its world again for solace and love. I hope when the genius is ready with A Suitable Girl, I get to read it, hopefully, in the Metro.”