In 10 years, the Delhi Metro has altered landscapes and fortunes.
Dekho beta, M for metro, bolo, M for metro,” says a mother to her excitable son, trying to restrain him from swirling around the poles inside a crowded Metro coach. And just like that, the Metro has made it to the alphabet. Just as it has become the way the city moves, and just as it has become difficult to remember what Delhi looked like before the metallic contours of the Metro took over it.
On December 24, 2012, the Delhi Metro turned 10. Celebrations were muted – the city was mourning the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman. But this important milestone did not go unnoticed. Since its inception, the Metro has ferried more than a billion commuters over 190 km, 139 stations and six lines.
The Metro has reduced the city, and its overwhelming vastness, to a friendlier size and shape — straight lines replacing radials and ring roads. Even as the city expands in size and population, the Metro contracts it. It’s no wonder then that other cities in the country are adopting the Delhi Metro’s model.
Through its underground, at-grade and elevated routes, the Metro has become a permanent lens through which we see the city. Metro stations have become reliable and well-known physical markers of the city. Rashmi Sadana, in her excellent essays on the Delhi Metro, writes that the service hasn’t just facilitated movement; it has given us new eyes to see the city with. Yet, people are still discovering the Metro. At Seelampur, on the 25-km-long Red Line, which was the inaugural route of the service, a family fumbles with tokens and automated card readers, as others breeze through in what has become their routine.
The Metro has become a necessary navigating tool for those new to the city. Priyanka, an engineering student from Andhra Pradesh, who moved to Delhi three years ago, only uses the Metro to get around in the city, doing away with the tantrums of autowallahs or complicated bus routes. “It’s safe and easy,” she tells us, as she shows her brother, who is visiting Delhi for the first time, around the Metro Museum, which was inaugurated in 2008 and documents the Metro’s history through display panels. For him, it’s a must-visit along with the Qutab Minar and Red Fort.
Also at the Museum, housed in the Patel Chowk station, is