Boarding a Metro


I was waiting at a crowded metro station for the train to come. It was hot and sultry, my shirt was sticking to my back. I was dreading the jostle that would follow the arrival of the metro. My companion was oblivious; she seemed not to have a care in the world. The crowd did not daunt her the way it got to me. How I envied her!

I hate traveling in crowded public transport in India. So many times, I have picked up a fight. I remember an educated young guy, who was sitting too close for my comfort in a bus, telling me to travel by auto when I objected and asked him to move aside.

Another time, I just took a cigarette from a guy’s hand and threw it out of the bus window because he would not stop smoking even after repeated requests. There have been wandering hands (on so many occasions) in my direction and my loud protests, even an occasional pushing away someone rudely and physically. All these scenes were passing through my mind while I was waiting.

Finally, the metro arrived and I moved along with my friend to board it. Somehow, we were the first few people to get inside. I was bracing myself to face the crowd as they started pouring in. My jaws dropped up to my knees as I found people, guys actually, tiptoeing around me to get in.

No, I was not dreaming. I was boarding the train in Singapore (it was way back in 1999) and it was my first ever visit abroad. Having experienced only the Indian crowd (which is rowdy in most of the cities, apart from a few exceptions) I expected the same hassles there. My friend had been staying in Singapore for the past three years and thus was totally unconcerned.

How I wish this scene would become true of India in my lifetime, but I have very little hope.

PS. I updated this post with a photo in 2018. The photo is from a 2017 trip to Singapore.

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13 thoughts on “Boarding a Metro”

  1. Presumably this has to do with differences in concepts of “personal space”, but I know just what you mean!

  2. Hmmm…I take public transport and it does has those inconvenient moments, but overall I’ve had a positive experience. Of course, things do get a bit crowded during rush hour and some people are just downright rude and inconsiderate. I hear that in Japan there are women-only sections on the metro so that women aren’t harrassed on the daily commute.

  3. It amazed me to watch the jostling and pushing to board the trains while we were there. People had a hard time getting off the train because the people getting on wouldn’t give them space. We always tried to get to the station early to avoid the struggle when possible (which was only when we got on at the first station the train left from).I wonder if it would work to use the door at one end of the car as an exit and the other one as an entrance?

  4. I’m glad i don’t have those problems where I live. I don’t like to navigate in crowds.

  5. sometimes i am ashamed of it too..but it will tke a lot of effort n time before india reaches the level at which singapore is now…

  6. “Another time, I just took a cigarette from a guy’s hand and threw it out of the bus window because he would not stop smoking even after repeated requests.”You are my hero, Mridula.

  7. When travelling in crowded public spaces, such things are bound to happen. Its not as if I have not seen this happening in US of all places when I used to travel in crowded buses. Thats society :)Suyog

  8. Hi, the first time here.It reminded me of Japanese commuter train in a very hot summer. Being in such a train used take a lot of energy from me.

  9. I think the situation here in India is quite different. Have a look at the more eloquent entries at the Blank Noise to see what I mean. I hate being harressed on the DTC buses whenever I step there without H. Anyway, these days I drive and rarely venture in a bus without H so memories have dimmed.

  10. its taken me a while to get used to that here in singapore. the whole respect for personal space. coming from delhi i didnt really know that meaning existed in other peoples minds!

  11. D for me Singapore was just a small visit and then back to Delhi, but the difference is that I drive my own car and never roll the windows down when alone.

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