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Metro musings: The gift of solitude in company

There is something hypnotic about being transported at high speed across the city crushed within a sea of human bodies. Zoom in and you see myriad expressions, people’s worries and preoccupations etched so clearly on their faces. The hassled employee late for work, the group of women armed with passes to go to the India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan, gloating over how they had lied to their bosses and mothers in law! College kids withdrawn into their own world, earphones welded into their ears. Groups of them yapping away, discussing boyfriends and profs and other stuff I no longer understand.

Zoom out and all the noise around subsides. All you hear is the rhythmic sound of the train on the track, the sound of comfort and excitement. The sound of motion, familiar from zillion childhood journeys and yet signifying another adventure, another destination.

It is impossible not to love this journey on the Delhi Metro. To me, it has come to mean precious time to myself. I read, I listen to music or I simply sit and imbibe the sights and sounds, the feel of Delhi citizens off to work, study or pleasure. It is a lively place, this train, despite some serious and glowering faces. Most of us seem to enjoy the status quo that comes with being on a train, suspended between somewhere and elsewhere. I see many lost in thought, one with themselves, introspective or simply dormant.

It is this opportunity that high speed travel offers that people around the world love so much. Many songs and books eulogise the metro experience in New York and the Tube in London has an iconic status for people across the works, even if they’ve never been to that city. The most bizarre scene in Skyfall, Bond’s latest, is the one jn which the train falls through a hole and crashes into the subterranean landscape of the tube. All who see it imagine the horror of being on a train that meets such a fate and we hate the bad guy who would want to go that to our beloved metro!

Indeed, I have come to love the Metro ride. I greet it as I would a dear friend and savour the experience each time. I remind myself that this is a gift we must appreciate, considering that only a few years ago we were helpless commuters with very few options.

How travel shaped me: Nostalgia! May 26, 2012

For me, vacations are about travel and there is nothing as exciting as planning a trip somewhere. My mum is an avid traveler and even on scanty budgets, we traveled quite a bit when I was young. Living away from family meant trips to Goa and Bangalore were normal. But we took an annual trip to someplace else as well. I remember coming awake in an open jeep to a watch a magnificent white peacock dancing at Kanha National Park. Car breakdowns near Kota, at an obscure village in Hassan district on our way to Belur-Halebidu temples are specially memorable as a child. I was happy to sit idle at strange places while people around me fretted and stressed out! Once, we drove through the Chambal Valley and dad could not have enough of trying to scare us with dakoo (bandit) stories!
The exposure of travel is priceless indeed and many observations regarding culture, environment, art, architecture and human behaviour stay with us because they came to us when we were busy having fun- traveling!
I fell in love with India’s heritage because I traveled to many major and minor sites as a child and young adult. I That I went on to study architecture and took a certificate in conservation during my masters in planning is no coincidence, in hindsight!
No experience was too harsh either! We slept on the station platform once and got thrown off a train another time, literally with bags and baggage going plonk, plonk, plonk at regular intervals down the platform as the ticket collector pushed them off a moving train! I can laugh now, but I remember that as a long, long night. That we plodded on despite obstacles clearly imparted some life skills. Despite travel anxiety, I can convince myself to let go and am confident things will work out and the usually do!
June is the travel month for our family. Cannot wait for it to begin!

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