Hundred metres from the Jama Masjid Metro station is Faisal Khan’s house — where he was born 24 years ago. Familiar with every galli and kucha, he walks past the wonders of Old Delhi with absolute nonchalance. On Sunday afternoon, however, his stride was restrained, poetic, as he strolled through the newly opened Metro station. Khan and his three friends took selfies in front of the art installations — with photos of the mosque, Sri Digambar Jain Lal temple and St Stephen’s church — at the station. “My family has been here for 60-70 years, and the Metro coming to this side of Old Delhi is a landmark move. The closest station for us is Chawri Bazaar, which is one km away, and the traffic is bad; it also costs Rs 30 per rickshaw ride. With the Metro, we save Rs 900 a month,” says Khan.
On its first day, DMRC’s Heritage Line — with stations at Delhi Gate, Jama Masjid, Lal Qila and Kashmere Gate — saw many heading to Jama Masjid, as it was also the first day of Ramzan. Mehfooz Saklaini (36) from Loni, Ghaziabad, said: “We are fasting today, so travelling is a problem. But with the Metro, it’s been a joyride. We can get to Jama Masjid in an AC train. It’s very convenient,” he said. For some like 19-year-old Mohammad Owaiz, a ride is a way to celebrate his Class XII result, which was announced in the morning. “I passed, so I decided to treat myself to a ride in the Metro. The station is beautiful,” he said.
While many thronged the Heritage Line on Sunday afternoon, some were skeptical. “This work on the walls won’t last long, people will vandalise it. Before that happens, I decided to come here with my friends,” said Vikalp, a 22-year-old student of Hansraj College. Others like the Sahgals from Lajpat Nagar took the Metro on Sunday so that their youngest daughter, four-year-old Noya, can acquaint herself with the culture that Old Delhi embodies.
“We are here out of curiosity, this is so different from all the other Metro stations. They’ve paid attention to work outside the control room too,” said 21-year-old Diksha Sahgal. Outside the station too, the mood was jubilant for most people. Md Saleem, a jeweller in Meena Bazaar, is glad the service lane leading up to the main road has finally been opened for use after four years. He said, “The Metro will get tourists to Meena Bazaar and our sales are bound to go up by 20 per cent. Also, the Metro management keeps everything clean so this will change the face of the place.”
While many are hopeful that the Heritage Line will help businesses in the area, some like Md Hasan, a rickshaw puller in the area for 34 years, is desperate to find an alternate means of earning. “Ab toh Karim’s tak jaane ke liye rickshaw ki zaroorat nahi hai, log paidal he chale jaayenge. Aaj se fark nazar aa raha hai kamaai mein. Iss Metro se safar karne waale ka faayda hua hai aur rozgaar ka nuksaan hua hai,” he said.