So today I took the Delhi Metro for the first time. It was pretty awesome. I didn’t believe it when they said it was better than New York’s subway system, but I should have. It’s definitely cleaner, everything is new, the technology includes escalators that move very slowly and until someone gets on them (wasting less energy), tokens that you tap going in and deposit going out, to check that the correct fare has been paid. The metro is very spacious both in the stations and the cars, the trains are well marked in both Hindi and English, and it really covers a lot of Delhi very well.
And then there is the amazingness that is the women’s car. The first car of every train is reserved for women only. The places to stand to get into this car are demarcated by pink signs with flowers on them that hang from the ceilings like ads for womens products would at a drugstore. The women’s car is a sacred sanctuary into which no man dare enter.
I went on the Metro with Kelly, another fulbrighter who was staying in Delhi for the week. At first, we didn’t realize there was a women’s car, and when the train came, we sandwiched ourselves into a sea of men in one of the middle cars. If you live in New York and take the train at rush hour, it may be hard for you to imagine more people in a train car than that. There were more. People don’t have the same sense of personal space here, so we were literally smooshed between men. We stood there awkwardly for a minute or so, waiting for the train to move, until we remembered about the women’s car, rushed over, and stood comfortably with a smattering of girls our age and older aunties.
Some of the train cars are connected from the inside, and it is often the case that the first men’s car will be connected to the women’s car. In this case, as the men’s car fills up, some of the men will occasionally spill into the women’s car. But the Metro employees are absolutely adamant about keeping the women’s car for women only. At one point, when the men were a good way into the women’s car, a Metro officer walked in with a whistle, and blew it while herding the men out of the car. I have never seen anything like this. Though frankly, I have never seen anything like most of the things I am seeing right now.
I haven’t even gotten to the purpose of my metro ride: I met my affiliate professor, Prof. Anupam Mahajan today. More on this soon, but I felt good about it, and I am really excited to be affiliated with Delhi University’s Music Department. At the entrance of the school, there is a glass case with a statue of Ganesha (the elephant god) holding a sitar. I am going back for concerts next thursday and friday, and I can’t wait to spend more time here.