Nine months ago,when I walked into the Byappanahalli Metro depot,a security guard came running,flailing his hands. I am extremely sorry,maam,but we have strict orders not to let anyone in, he said,in fluent English,and before I could sneak a good look at the coaches half-hidden from view behind metal sheets,he briskly escorted me out. The pride of being part of Bangalores biggest dream project,however,got the better of him. The train looks good,no?
We are all waiting to see it run, he said,pointing to the men in fluorescent vests and hard hats who have spent months prepping the citys first metro train for its launch,after a frustrating delay,on October 20.
Amid speculation about who will cut the ribbons — Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath is expected to grace the event — there is excitement among Bangaloreans who,much as they bemoan the modernisation of the city,want to be on that first train from MG Road to Byappanahalli. Over 35,000 are expected to turn up for the inauguration; four thousand smart cards have already been sold.
Every evening,shoppers thronging MG Road stop to admire the purple-and-silver coach on display near the station; autowallahs stare wistfully at its shiny windows as they round the
bend into Museum Road. Will the Metro ease traffic in the city? Its tough to say. According to a recent survey,Bangalore is the sixth most painful city in the world for commuters. A five-km commute can take up to an hour,in peak hours. Over 50,000 cases of wrong parking are booked every month in the city,most of them a direct result of lack of parking space. The Metro brings with it immense expectations,some of which are bound to be squashed under its wheels.
But the workers are a proud lot. Karim Ahmed,a 31-year-old from Darbhanga,Bihar,who has been manning construction equipment for the Metro site in Byappanahalli for the last year and a half,says,When I came to Bangalore for the first time 12 years ago,it was like Bihar,there werent many big buildings or shops. Now,its a real city and I want my mother and father to see it.
Says Sujit,who has been running a chai stall outside the depot,close to the cluster of sheds,for a year now,I supply 500-600 cups of tea a day. A friend of mine from Bihar recently set up a tea stall in Marathalli,where new companies have come up. He asked me to join him,saying business is very profitable there. But I said,pehle Metro aane do,ab dekhkar hi jaenge (let the Metro come,I want to see it before moving).
Come October 20,Bangalore will hang on to the grab poles of its first Metro train,and to the hope that it solves a few of the citys burgeoning traffic troubles.