Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Incredible Experience of the Bangalore Metro

I must be one of the few to have visited the (recently built) Bangalore Metro stations and come away without boarding a train.  This is how it happened:

Two days ago I was sitting and thinking about the film I had seen the previous evening - Kahaani (This film will be discussed in a separate post.  But one of the key points of it is that horrifying scenes are enacted in some Kolkata metro stations).  At this point, the phone rang and someone said, "Er- who is this?"  This type of call always gets me irritated and I indicated that in my reply.  The voice at the other end was somewhat apologetic, asking for Sujata Varadarajan and saying that she had left her work files in the Indiranagar  Metro station.  Quite surreal because I don't possess any work files and I have never been to any Bangalore metro station.  In fact I haven't visited Indiranagar for many years.  The man read out the names of the "files"- and I realized that these were the manuscripts I had left with Gangaram publishers.  They must have forgotten them in some train and the security office was calling to ask me to collect these in person.  "You can come anytime Madam," the man said.  "We are open 24 hours a day."

Incredible!  I couldn't get over the efficiency and politeness of the  Metro staff!  Well, I decided to go the very next day, just in case...  And so I drove up to one of the stations and stood there gaping for a while.  These stations are huge, gleaming edifices with just a soul or two involved in the exercise of catching a train (this was mid morning).  There are also smartly dressed, ultra alert and helpful staff - they all speak two or three languages, even the floor cleaners.  I was guided to the Customer Care section, which had two employees (both in their seats), who directed me to the next metro station, which is where my package lay.

Their directions were precise.  I located the next station, designed in the same way (and therefore easy to navigate).  I glided up on the smooth escalator.  I was the only person there.  Bits of the film (Kahaani) flashed before my eyes.  I moved on, mentally and physically.  Past the security and to Customer Care once more, who established, in less than a minute, that my books were indeed in their office.  I did not want to pay the entrance charge and they willingly agreed to let me go through without a ticket.  A security man escorted me to the Security Control Office.  I could see one or two commuters in the corridor. The trains rumbled periodically.  Otherwise all was silent and spotless.

I reached the Control Office and was given a chair and a glass of water.  Tea and coffee were offered but I said I didn't normally drink these.  The man hopefully asked if he could give me a glass of Bournvita and I apologetically declined.  I showed my ID, which was whisked off to be photocopied.  The man behind the desk was the same person I had spoken to the previous day.  We chatted about this and that, I glanced at the multiple computer screens showing different views of the station and the trains. I wrote a letter and filled out a form in A.C. comfort, seated in a plush chair.  Another security officer ambled in and began asking fairly interesting questions about the title of my book.  It turned out that he was an amateur script writer and wanted to make small films in his spare time.  He narrated a story about how Rabindranath Tagore left his manuscript 'Gitanjali' in one of the Kolkata trams and someone eventually managed to return it to him.  Tagore won the Nobel prize for this piece of work.  "Maybe, Madam," the young man said hopefully, "The same thing will happen to you."  Unfortunately, I had to dash his hopes.  (I probably should have said' Tumhare mun mein ghee shakkar i.e. "May you eat (good stuff like) ghee and sugar, for saying these sweet and kind words").  My husband said I should have offered him half the prospective Nobel prize money...

We all chatted some more and then I had to leave.  The two men escorted me all the way until the staircase, when I finally turned to them and said I would make my way out.  The person who called said he would have delivered the books to me himself but security rules had to be followed.  I thanked them once more.  On this cordial note, we said goodbye.  I walked down the stairs, a smile on my face, my mind in a whirl. I would have loved to take a trip on the trains (the security man even told me which was the best station for parking etc.) but time did not permit this.  And so the metro ride must wait for another day.

(Meanwhile, I have decided to publish one of my books online.  Apparently there is a very good Indian publishing site that has come into existence along the lines of lulu, called pothi.  Enough of publishers!  I will try this on my own in the near future).

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