Navigating cities can be hard! A Delhi Metro story

I was returning from Delhi on the metro on Friday evening. It was only four but the metro was quite packed. I got into a general compartment being quite sick of the scenario on the ladies reserved one! And I was glad. For a few stops later, an entire wedding band trooped in. They were being ushered in by a man who seemed really confident. A savvy dilliwala, I thought.
I stood all the way, but many of the bandwalas squatted on the floor of the coach. They had no idea it was not permitted and no one said anything to them either. Rather sad looking men they were, in grubby white uniforms with bright red accents. The uniform of the bandwala, another strange legacy of the Raj here in north India. Sometimes they whispered amongst themselves. But mostly they just sat and stared. I wondered about their lives. Where did they come from? Who taught them to play all these unusual instruments, the saxophone, the large drums, etc.
Once we crossed the M G Road station and the train was rather empty, I noticed the man who seemed in charge of them get rather agitated. He pulled out a piece if paper from his shirt pocket and looked around hopefully. I offered to help. On the paper I could see “park hotel” written in devnagari. I asked them to get off at huda city centre and cross the road. But I had a moment of doubt and asked to see the paper again, only to realise they needed to get to the City Park Hotel that was near the toll on NH8!
This hotel is not here, it’s on the jaipur highway, I told the man. A completely bewildered look. But this is gurgaon isn’t it? This is where we were told to go!
In the nick of time, on my insistence, they got off at Iffco Chowk, me shouting instructions to get to the highway and figure out how to reach! Poor bandwalas shuffled out with heavy feet and long faces. Another evening of escorting some happy groom and his gleeful family and perhaps drunk brethren to his wedding. I doubt it touched them, the glitz of the Great Indian Wedding, to which their jazzy red cummerbunds and gilded headgear adds south sparkle. I hope they got to the wedding in time. I hope they got paid enough. This is, after all, their time to make their bucks before they go back to languishing wherever they do for the rest of the year when not many people get married in this part if the country!
And I thought about how difficult it is for even a reasonable confident dilliwala. A guy who runs a band business or at least works as the band owners manager; if he can’t get around, what hope is there for an illiterate person, an outsider, an under confident traveller? Maybe the Delhi government should have services at bus stands and stations to help people navigate this city better. I envisage touch screens that make this networks simple to comprehend and bring smiles to those confused faces. I imagine an accessible city, a friendly city, a better city. It’s not enough to put in the infrastructure; we got to go one step further to make it usable, comprehensible, navigable to all.

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on December 8, 2012, in Travel & Experiences and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Javmode.

  2. My bandwala spottings have been very happy instances. Most of them appeared to be familiar to the system. The spottings have always reminded me of how public this public transport really is! People from everywhere (socio economicbackgrounds) travel together in good standardized conditions and are tolerant/approving to the other. In no other world would I imagine rubbing shoulders with a trumpet wielding bandwala, and not feel uncomfortable about it.

    Here, I don’t think they had a problem with the metro network’s navigability. They were just given no (bad directions) of what Metro Station to get off at. But in any case, surely, it would majorly help if the people sitting in the metro card recharge cubicle could also help travellers with this information.

    • Agreed. Some info or assistance is surely required to ease the confoundment. I agree. I too love the sheer diversity of the world we inhabit and loathe those who would rather compartmentalise and sanitise life! Thanks Rohan for writing in!

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