Metro trains are common around the world, but my city got one just a few years back. When it was first launched, everyone was talking about it. But soon, like all things the excitement had died down.
Nowadays, the metro is sparsely used. On rare occasions when I’ve had to take it, I never noticed much of a crowd. Even the sparse people who sit around don’t have even the slightest excitement I had initially seen. The train has become a part of their routine. They just sit with their music on their mobiles, looking at the ceiling or down at the floor. But not once I saw anyone looking out through the windows.
The government had recently rolled out a new line of service. To commemorate this, they announced that the metro will be free of cost for a couple of days. When I came across this news, I decided to make a detour on my way home. So I switched trains and changed to the metro line.
When you’re living in a developing country, you can see both ends of the spectrum. On one side, you have these metro stations, airports, and shopping malls. Very well-developed and maintained. But when you come out of those places you’ll probably see an open drainage spot or littered trash.
When I entered the station, I felt a sudden shift in the spectrum. People did not litter anymore or even talk in high voices like they usually do. Places can do that to people, especially us, Indians. We are like chameleons. That may also be the reason you may find us living all over the world.
After all the security checks and long escalators, I had finally reached my boarding point. The train arrived as scheduled. Tired from work, I wanted to make it home as quick as possible. When I entered the train though, the sight I saw made me forget everything.
The train was totally different on the inside. The usual crowd was not there. Wait, maybe they were, but I just couldn’t find them. There were families all around. It was like a carnival crowd, not a regular passenger crowd.
I managed to get a seat and had to cramp myself between two people. Normally, the entire row would be empty. Not today.
The crowd I saw today were all similar. A working husband, a housewife and their kid, who had to be held in place from running around. In some cases, it was 2. That was the only difference.
I could see where this crowd came from. Even though the metro has been around for some time, not many use it. The reason is that the tickets are a bit pricey for day-to-day travelers. Today, since the tickets were free, many families wanted to experience the metro. For them, it was like taking the kids to the movies.
The fathers were playing the role of a “Know it all”. They kept updating their families on the stops and routes. The mothers, mostly homemakers looked happier than their kids to me. Though lots of women work today, a majority of wives are still at home, cooking. Some love it. Many don’t. So it’s a relief for them when they come out of the house.
The kids, well they were just running around. The fathers had to literally pull them by their collars to make them stay in place. Most had their noses flat against the windows, enjoying the scenery when the train came out of the tunnel.
The parents also took time to educate their kids. “Do you know what that building is?”, “That’s where your uncle’s house used to be”, “ Keep counting the stops yet to come”. Parents love educating their kids, don’t they?.
There were also these kids who came as a group. They didn’t come with their family. They were underprivileged kids, whose families are fighting to live on a day-to-day basis. You can tell it’s their first time experiencing an air conditioner.
They were the happiest faces I could find. The environment did not change who they were. They were talking about how they were going to go back and forth, till the last train. Their words were not softly spoken, like others on the train. They were still their usual self. They also had that grin on their faces all the time. Today was a day they would never forget.
I got out of the train, realizing I never took out my mobile. Not even once. Whoever brought this free travel day gets my regards. It was probably done as a marketing strategy to gain more passengers on a daily basis. But these couple of days has brought a smile to everyone who travelled, including mine.