August 16, 2015 12:41:18 am
At 7.30 am on Saturday, Anubhav and Mohammad Iqbal, final year students of Zakir Hussain College, rushed towards the exit gate at the Chandni Chowk Metro station.
“Bhaiya Lal Qila ke liye exit kahan se hai? (Where is the exit for Red Fort)” they asked a Metro official, who pointed them to it. They swiped their cards and left, unaware that Metro rides before 8 am were free for those exiting at Chandni Chowk. They were supposed to be given slips at the boarding station, which they claim they never got.
“Was the ride free? We didn’t know. We got on at GTB Nagar Metro station but no one mentioned anything about it being free,” said Anubhav.
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Like Anubhav and Iqbal, many seemed unaware that they were eligible for free rides. “I am a regular commuter and I did not know of this. Why didn’t they make an announcement on Friday?” said an IT professional on his way to Red Fort.
Outside the station, in a narrow lane with shops on one side, two men from Panipat tried to attract customers. “Water paints tiranga banwa lo (Water colour flags),” one of them shouted. They held three containers, with saffron, white and green paints and a brush. “10 rupees only, ek gaal ya do aapki marzi (Only for Rs 10),” shouted another.
One of the men said, “I work in a jewellery store and he (the other one) works in the handloom industry in Panipat. We have been coming to Delhi for the last three-four years during Republic Day and Independence Day. It’s not as much about business as it is about patriotism.”
As is the case every year, many did not make it in time for the PM’s speech and ended up waiting outside the barricades near the Old Delhi Railway Junction.
By 8.03 am, the entry had been closed. Among those stranded outside were Anubhav and Iqbal. “We reached a few minutes late and weren’t allowed inside. I’ve heard (former PM) Manmohan Singh’s speech earlier. This time I wanted to listen to PM Modi,” said Iqbal in disappointment.
However, they found a way to feel included. Four groups huddled together to listen to Modi’s speech playing on a mobile phone. Those at the back could not hear a thing but said they didn’t care. “We can hear Modi’s voice. That’s enough for us to feel like we’re a part of the event,” said an elderly man.
Police tried to disperse the crowd, but people seemed to find their way back to the barricades. They intermittently chanted Bharat Mata ki Jai, munched on papads and clutched on to national flags of varying sizes.
Police soon announced that the speech was over and asked everyone to leave. Gradually, the crowd melted away, leaving only the barricades behind and at a distance, the Red Fort.
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