Living In A Trance-port: Life in Delhi

Saturday-afternoons in Delhi are beautiful in January, especially with the golden sunshine of winters, and less traffic. So, like on most lazy Saturday afternoons, took my six-year-old on a trip to his library in my car. The distance from Greater Kailash 2 to his library in South Extension is six kilometres (3.7 miles). As we neared our destination, my heart sank to see a total jam at the entrance to the South Ex market. Hmmm! Must be the result of the winter-sale season, I wondered. Cars spilled out from the jammed parking lots onto the Ring-Road. Yes, there were cars on the Ring-Road, waiting in queue with engines switched off. Helpless traffic-cops just stood by. I waited for ten minutes, but saw not a car move even far into the parking-lot.

I’m Feeling Lucky

“Let’s do something crazy and inspiring” I told my six-year-old. I pulled out of the queue, and drove all the way to Nehru Place, which is about six kilometres away (3.7 miles), carefully noticing I could find not a single parking-spot on this entire route. Parked my car in the lot of The Delhi Metro Station, which was also nearly full. The assistant informed me today was a lucky day as there were less cars due to the weekend. In Delhi, It’s not unusual to hand over your keys to the attendant so he may keep shuffling your car around in the driveways of an overflowing parking-lot. I didn’t have to today.

Nehru-Place is the nearest metro-station from my home, and Moolchand is the closest station to South-Extension on the violet-line. I bought two metro tickets from Nehru-Place to Moolchand, for Rs 20 (43 cents). The distance from Moolchand to South-Extension is about 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles). I could have easily walked this last mile, but not in Delhi’s pollution and noise, and certainly not with a six-year-old. Please search the web to discover the alarming levels of Delhi’s air-pollution, and how Delhi records the highest cases of respiratory diseases and infections in its population. So I decided to catch an auto-rickshaw for this short distance. He charged me Rs 40 (87 cents). Wow!

Anyways, business done in South-Extension, we walked back to the Ring-Road, and this time I decided to catch a bus to the Moolchand Metro station. A spanking new Redline Bus came by, and we hopped abroad. This was my first trip on these new buses. The conductor charged us Rs 50 (USD 1.08) for this short ride. That’s more than what the auto-rickshaw charged me, and that too for an even shorter distance as we had to take no U-turn on this route. Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll try the green-line.

The bus dropped us at a bus-stop about 400 metres away from the metro-station, and we carefully walked our way through the Moochand crossing with its dangerous and bewildering BRT crossings. Another set of metro-tickets for Rs 20 (43 cents) got us back to Nehru-Place, where I paid another Rs 10 (21 cents) for the car-parking. Then spent another ten minutes in the traffic to get back home.

Neurotic Standards

I spent Rs 140 (USD 3.04) for a return-journey for two by public-transport, for about 12 kilometres total, that took a total-time of 90 minutes of commuting, including walking and waiting. Rupees 140 is high, even by Delhi’s mad and neurotic standards. I don’t know whether for the same amount I could have covered this round-trip by auto-rickshaws. For that kind of money, my auto-rickshaw driver quipped, I could buy bus-tickets for two from the Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT) to head out far into the countryside.

On such days, maybe I could have my driver drop me at South-Extension, find parking in a two kilometre radius, or else drive back home, and in either case wait for me to call him over his mobile-phone to pick me up. Sinful.

I do want to switch to public-transport. That’s what I use when I travel anywhere else in the world. And Delhi’s metro service is indeed impressive, as is the redline-bus. Am eager to see better solutions emerge for this route and other short but equally congested distances near me. Let’s see. Oh! And by the way, must confess I did have quite a lot of fun doing this today. Expect to see me hop on-board the metro and even the red-line buses more frequently.