Metro manners

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By About six lakh Calcuttans take the underground trains every day. Problems abound. Saionee Chakraborty compiles a list of dos and don'ts to make life in the Metro easier Do you have any suggestion on Metro etiquette? Tell
  • Published 25.07.10

Do not treat the Metro as your living room and the armrests of the seats as your sofa.

Yes, it is a convenient place, a vantage point from where to make a dash for the door, but not a place to rest your posterior. Brushing the same body part against someone’s cheek, which almost always follows, is not decent. “Mostly men do this. If you ask them to move away, they can get really offensive,” says Deboleena Guhathakurta, a Metro regular.

Comparisons crop up for some. “The Delhi Metro has a glass partition at the ends of seats, stopping people from leaning against or resting on the armrests,” rues Kinsuk Ganguly who travels from Dum Dum to Chandni Chowk every day. The first look at the city Metro AC coach prototype suggests it would have the same feature. Paul the octopus hopes it does.

Control your volume. Other commuters do not really need to be privy to your conversation.

“I once overheard a conversation between two women. One was saying: ‘Neither do I gift my mother-in-law anything nor does she. I had once given her a blouse piece. She didn’t like it. She once wanted to get me a sari, but I said I don’t want it!’ They then moved over to salwar kurta versus sari debate,” laughs Pallavi Banerjee, who takes the train from Dum Dum to Rabindra Sadan daily.

Discussing mothers-in-law, colleagues or the boss may be an imperative, but your mother-in-law, colleagues and boss are not as interesting to others as they are to you. And in the Metro, your fellow commuter is entitled to be contemplating his own mother-in-law, colleagues and boss, in silence.

Please keep your money handy.

Do not start digging into your fashionable hobo once you reach the counter. Also do not queue up with Rs 500 note in front of an Exact Fare counter, no matter what time of the day it is.

Insert the right side of the ticket into the checking machine — otherwise it can stall the movement of everyone behind you.

“It is really sad that people in Calcutta still don’t know how to insert a ticket into the checking machine. As it is half of the checking machines don’t work! Just imagine if the only working one at a station happens to hang during office hours?” says Soumya Ray, a Metro regular.

Be gentle to your child. Do not force feed your child in the Metro. Especially bananas.

Apart from bad hygiene, it is an instance of invading your child’s privacy — this ought to be done to him in the confines of your home, if at all — and also that of your fellow commuters, again. They ought not to see this. The banana can make the act uglier. “I usually go to work around 12.30pm when a lot of junior sections in schools get over. Once there was a little girl who had not had her lunch. There was a squashed banana in her lunch box, the skin of which had turned black. To my horror, the mother just stuffed the little girl’s mouth with it. And no wonder, she threw up within minutes,” says Sayantani Chatterjee, who travels from Tollygunge to Chandni Chowk daily.

Or harass your child about the math test that went wrong. Or make him study. Wait till you get back home. Give him some time to ready his answer.

Do not force him to take his clothes off either.

Yes, this happens. This is really stripping the child of his dignity. “I have seen this happen twice. It was the same woman. She boarded the train, made herself comfortable and immediately started to strip her daughter. ‘You are sweating a lot. You might catch a cold,’ she kept on saying. The child protested, meekly though. Off went her school top in a second,” says Paramita Mukherjee, who travels from Rabindra Sarobar to Park Street for work.

Consider that you are probably not Size Zero. Gravity works on you, and it works on others more if you throw yourself on them.

Do not push and shove unselfconsciously, jostling for seats or space. Beware of crushing thighs and breaking bones. “The commuters should behave like human beings with fellow feelings, not like a herd of wild animals come down on civilisation like an unstoppable force of nature,” says Satyaki Ghose, who travels from Kalighat to Chandni Chowk every day.

Delhi Metro scores over Calcutta Metro on pushing and shoving too. “Since the seats are curved inwards designating a place for each person, jostling for seats is less,” says Saibal Mukherjee, who takes the train from Kalighat to Sovabazar.

Be more restrained at the terminal stations in particular.

Dum Dum and Tollygunge have seen it aplenty. And now Kavi Nazrul, the new terminal station for the south, is bearing the brunt. No sooner do the doors open than a rugby dash for staircases may see you in the harm’s way.

Please do not litter.

Your child may be tired or just plain nagging. You may have bought him a packet of chips or a bar of chocolate to cheer him up or just make quieten him. Practise restraint then. Wrappers are meant to be thrown in trash cans and not dropped discreetly behind the seat.

Hold on to the hand-rails.

To be able to be free-standing, balanced, feet slightly apart, is a skill, learnt after much training. Which Michelangelo’s David had. Go with the motion of the train. Practise. Until then read book in the comfort of your bed.

Do not block the gates.

It’s simple: you really don’t need an instruction pamphlet to know that you should queue up near the gate if you are about to get off and move away if not. “People just don’t get this. The other day when I asked a man to move away, he just started shouting ‘Where should I move?’ I was supposed to get off at Tollygunge and he was blocking my way,” says Smriti Ahluwalia, 27.

Men, do not stand in front of the woman’s seat.

We do not need to elaborate.

Vacate seats marked for the physically challenged and the senior citizens.

Do not get in if you are drunk. Or even have alcohol breath.

“Last week, a middle-aged man just pasted himself between two women in the ladies’ section. He kept rolling his eyes and smiling to himself. He was drunk and stinking. A child got so scared that she started crying. With people sweating profusely all around you and all the windows rolled up, it was quite unbearable,” says Subhashini Chatterjee, a Tollygunge to Chandni Chowk regular.

Have not had the time to wax? Tuck away your sleeveless shirts for a while then.

“Once I saw a former batch-mate wearing a sleeveless kurta. She was holding on to the hand-rails as if nothing was wrong, but it didn’t stop the B.O. from flowing freely. Yuck! I just turned my face away more in fear of her recognising me and chatting up,” says Shaumi Roy, who often boards trains from Kalighat. B.O. is bad manners, even if it be may be great personal style. And it applies to both men and women.

Students, take your bags off your shoulder.

When schools get over the Metro is usually gets very crowded. Most students walk into the train with the bags on their shoulders. “People get hit by the bags. The students take up more space as they stand in groups and also make it difficult to move in or out of the compartment,” says Damayanti Mukherjee, a regular commuter between Rabindra Sadan and Chandni Chowk.

Guide newcomers in case the platform is on the right side (Tollygunge and Park Street) and not the regular left.

Also guide those who want to get down at Gariabazar and want to know whether they should get down at Kavi Nazrul or another poet.

Do not race up an escalator that is coming down and do not race down an escalator that is going up: you are being a menace to public safety.

“It is a also bizarre to see how people push and shove on the escalator while trying to run up as if it is a treadmill,” says Kinsuk.

Do not spit on the tracks. Not on any rail!

Remember it’s futile to try and take a call when the train enters a tunnel.

The network usually does not follow us here like a faithful dog. You screaming a torrent of hellos into the phone as you lose the network can only shatter the fellow passenger’s eardrum.