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The Metro has integrated Delhi like nothing else. It has given a new lease of life to old Delhi's gallis, a better profile to its distant colonies and a happier way to navigate the city.
The city of Delhi is a unique multi-layered palimpsest and is a testimony to the eras gone by, where vestiges of the kingdoms of the Tughlaqs, Khiljis, Mughals, British and areas of post-Modern Delhi co-exist, often epitomised by its unique architecture. The skyline of the city has often been defined by the Qutub Minar, or the bulbous domes of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the minarets of Jama Masjid or the edifices of the Red Fort or the Lotus Temple.
The last decade saw this skyline being punctuated by a gleaming silver streak traversing the city, built atop robust pillars of exposed concrete rapidly rising and disappearing into the ground in the core of the city. This new layer has seamlessly integrated itself into this multi-layered fabric and altered the way we perceived and experienced the city. These red, blue, yellow, green and purple lines of the Delhi Metro effortlessly integrated the city and its suburbs into one metropolis, becoming an integral part of the life of one and all.
An effective Mass Rapid Urban Transport System is the lifeline of most urban metropolitan cities, some dating back to the 1880s such as the London Underground which has successfully completed 150 years. One of the best systems in the world, it has been carefully planned to accommodate the needs of the city and facilitate its radial growth by integrating and extending the Underground Lines upto the countryside and suburbs, adding a new network of the London Overground and the DLR (Dockland Light Railway) allowing effortless interchanges between the various modes of transport.
Other historic networks include the Paris Metro or the Metropolitan, a largely underground network, it is one of the densest and busiest Metro networks in Europe characterised by its Art Nouveau style of architecture translating in the stations, street furniture and graphics. Although Kolkata was the first city in the country to get a Metro, the Delhi Metro has often been pitched as one of the most successful models of MRTS in India to be compared with the London Underground, built to iInternational standards in record time, to be used as a model to be replicated in other cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.
Delhi was always engulfed by stereotypes and prejudices and the city compartmentalised into areas such as purani dilli, jamna paar, south Delhi, west Delhi. These areas developed on their own, cut off from each other until the day the Metro arrived. These exemplified the concept of the "modernist city" where every area was self-sufficient, and one didn't need to travel out of their own pockets for anything. In one shot, the Metro achieved the unimaginable, where the fragmented city suddenly became one large metropolis, where one could travel from Jahangirpuri all the way to Gurgaon in a comfortable air conditioned environment for a reasonable fee in just over an hour, similarly suburbs like Dwarka and Noida were connected to the heart of the city.
Housewives could travel from Karol Bagh to the Saket Malls and vice-versa. The North Campus became accessible from all over the city with no more fears of missing the U-Special, as there was a train every few minutes. Thanks to the Metro, the mouthwatering kebabs of Karims of Jama Masjid or the dahi bhallas of Natraj at Chandni Chowk or the handloom exhibition at Dilli Haat at INA or Pitampura, a visit to Connaught Place or the Government offices at Central Secretariat are all the more accessible to the Common Man without having to worry about the endless traffic and parking woes!
The metro showcased a new urban landscape, punctuated by landmark commercial buildings, parks and malls, but from a new perspective. It was a Delhi not seen before. The architecture of the Metro was unique and contemporary, it used minimalist approach, modern materials and added to the fabric a contemporary typology of stations characterised by corrugated vaulted roofs supported by steel trusses and developed a common idiom for all stations from Peeraghari to Noida City Centre.
The Metro brought with it a breath of fresh air from overcrowded buses, traffic jams and dangerous Blue Lines. It was a secure, safe and clean environment for one and all including a dedicated ladies compartment, a sense of discipline where people stood in queue to board or alight from the trains and followed the rules - no littering, squatting or defacing Metro property.
The development of the city is now aligned around the Metro corridor, newspapers are flooded with upcoming projects for residential and commercial development from Greater Noida, Vaishali to Rohini and Rithala. Studies have indicated an escalation in property prices across the Metro corridors as well as commercial development along the corridors. The planners of the City are giving incentives to build more desnely along the corridors with higher FARs. The Metro is being promoted as a sustainable mode of transport which reduces the levels of traffic and pollution in metropolitan cities when compared with other modes such as the BRT.
The popularity of the Metro is unparalleled, not only did it enable access to the inner core of the city as well as revive the economy of the wholesale markets, it gave a new lease of life to the walled city. Over the last 50 years, many families left their ancestral homes in the old city for newer houses in the suburbs Delhi for better access to facilities as overcrowding etc results in large havelis becoming dilapidated and vanishing one after the other. The Metro brought a new hope for these residents to want to continue to live in the walled city.
"I own this ancestral house here in Kashmere Gate, we have grown up here. Some years back we were considering selling our house and moving to East Delhi, but today thanks to the Metro, Kashmere Gate has become Central again, " says D N Bagla of Kashmere Gate. "In fact I am even restoring my haveli to modern standards so that we can continue to live here. "
It's hard to imagine Delhi without the Metro now, it has become the symbol of the contemporary city often used as an iconic image in movies such as Band Baja Baraat, Dilli 6 and Vicky Donor to name a few. As Phase III goes into construction adding more dots to the expanding network, the urban landscape of Delhi continues to amalgamate the sleek Metro transport system into the local context characterised by the street vendors, rickshaw pullers and sea of passengers that travel on these lines every single day.
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