Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The woes of traveling by Hyderabad Metro Rail - Part II

The security system

Modern day dictum requires the use of security system at entrances to crowded and eminent places.
The system is a pain for anyone. Who likes standing at the entrances and be probed, patted, have pockets checked, bags searched…? You learn to grin and put up for the 1-2 times mall visits a month, or 4-5 airport visits a year.
But what when you commute by the metro and are subjected to this kind of checking twice a day? And what if rules keep getting added with the least concern for the commuter? And executed with the least politeness? Being treated with suspicion twice a day is no fun.
When I started using the metro for travel, I was asked to put the backpack which contains, a laptop, an extra pair of shoes I carry every day, a water bottle and my wallet, on the conveyor belt for scanning.
I used to carry my lunch bag in my hand and a slim 7"x 7" sling bag across the front containing change for Rs. 500/- for my daily commute, my office ID card and my cell phone.
All the travelers are asked to put their bags on the conveyor belt and have the luggage scanned. I comply to this.
A few days later, one of the security guards asked me to put my sling bag also on the conveyor belt. Containing just a little cash, a cell phone, the metro card and the house keys, the bag is just too thin to cause any suspicion of a physical threat. A physical examination would have been enough. But the guard insisted I put it on the belt. The cloth bag comes without a zip or a button and I ran the risk of the contents falling out in the transaction. Moreover, exposing my iPhone to the hazard of x-rays twice a day was unacceptable to me. I feared it would cause a damage.
So, now I have another piece of luggage to be added to the backpack...this sling bag.
Third, my lunch-box is made of several tiny plastic boxes containing tiny portions of various items, solid and liquid. Because it is plastic, it tends to topple over when I keep it on the conveyor belt.
The security guards insisted that I put it on the belt too. During the return journey, the empty set of tiffin boxes would be knocked off the conveyor belt and fall to ground because of its lightness. (Was a disaster when I tried carrying a pastry daintily back home one day).
The next item to be added to the backpack in addition to the laptop, shoes, a water bottle, my wallet and the sling bag was now this lunch box.
I start out from home now by holding the cell phone, the house keys and the metro card in my hand. Rest of the things are now stuffed into the back pack, to be placed on the conveyor belt.
The next set of instructions came a few days later. ‘Take out all the water bottles from your bags and hold it in your hand’. Ok. So now, I go to the conveyor belt, wait for a few seconds to take the water bottle out of its slot in the back pack, keep it in my hand along with the house keys, the metro card and the cell phone, enter the cordoned security area for a physical examination by the hand-held device, emerge on to the other side, collect my backpack, re-insert the bottle in the backpack, swipe my metro card at the entrance, run upstairs while balancing the water bottle, the metro card, the cell phone, the house keys and a heavy backpack on the back,  and with no hands left to hold onto the railings of the escalator, I risk my safety.
The new weight of the backpack, now also with an umbrella due to rainy season, is around 6 kgs.
When I start from office, I perch the bag on the table to enable me to push it on to the shoulders. Heaving it across the shoulders otherwise, causes the handles to graze the arms.
Security system at Ameerpet is a nightmare. The conveyor belt there is just a few inches above ground level. And one needs to pause in front of the belt, peel off the back pack, put it on the belt, bend down again on the other side to pick up the heavy backpack and put it back on your shoulders as there is no table or perch to rest your backpack on.
Another very dangerous thing one observes at some of the conveyor belts is that the they keep running and have no perch preceding or following the running belt because of which, if you wear a flowing dress, beware, your dress is likely to be caught. Second, there is no table or perch when the bags emerge on the other side and that’s why a security guard is allotted to collect your bags to prevent them falling off the belt.
The most ironic thing about the security is that as your bag goes through the x-ray machine, sometimes, there is no guard sitting there to watch the contents of your bag. You could put anything inside.
And sometimes the guard is busy doing important things like making calls as your bag is supposed to go through. And you emerge on the other side wondering why your bag hasn’t come through yet. You see that it is still sitting perched at the entrance to the conveyor belt as it is not pushed onto the belt by the guard. So you go back, push your bag through the entrance onto the conveyor belt and breathe in relief as the bag comes through this time.
To add to all these woes twice a day, is the utter lack of empathy and politeness by the security staff.
Why are we commuters subjected to such security system twice a day?
How are they going to manage when the crowds thicken due to extension of routes?

Having a walk-through metal detector plus the hand-held one will give the commuter the freedom to to carry his stuff whichever way he wants to and also save him from the rules which change ever-so-often (about things that can go into or need to be removed from the bags).

Monday, September 10, 2018

The woes of traveling by Hyderabad Metro Rail-Part I


No sooner did we Hyderabadis revel in the advent of the metro, than we started witnessing its rapid deterioration!
You can refer here to the extreme glee with which I welcomed the metro. Anything that caters to increasing the level of urbane infrastructure in Hyderabad, warms the heart at the prospect of improved standard of living.
After the usual Hyderabad frenzy of initial rush, I took a casual trip one day. My heart was singing as I saw the well-planned infrastructure, the cleanliness, the sparkling newness and the near-empty spaces within and outside the train.
All this experience was short-lived as my new job entailed a commute of 25+ kms to Hi-Tech city. And that’s when I realised what I was getting into.
I figured a combination of routes and travel and finally settled on getting down at Ameerpet and opting for another transport from Ameerpet to Hi-tech city.  I was at peace at finding a routine.
Well, what do you know?!
Traveling by metro is strictly for the physically strong.
Prepare for walking…walking long distances and climbing up and down staircases.
A typical metro station has four entry points...two on each side of the road. On one side is a lift and the other side an escalator plus steep staircases to go up/ down. Climbing all these can be intimidating. Escalators/lifts may not be on the side of the road you want to get off on and therefore climbing down these steep staircases can be gruelling.
Watch out especially for metro stations on SP road, most of which have access only on one side of the road.
The example of Parade Ground station…
While traveling towards Uppal, you come across the first entry to Parade Ground station. And what have you here? A formidable climb up two steep flights of stairs to reach the concourse!
If you want to be smarter the next time and take the second entry point to the station, you walk 300-400 metres further and get to use the lift to go to the concourse. But after reaching the concourse, you keep walking and walking… seems like almost a kilometer… to reach the platform! And I imagine it to be so for all the stations on SP road which have entry point only on one side of the road.
Once you reach the concourse, watch out for all the floor space you need to cover to get to the platform!
At least the train floor is on the level of platform and one needn’t have to labor to get onto the train.
Okay, now here comes the not so funny part….in all stations, 2 of 4 escalators are kept closed ‘to conserve electricity.’ In few of them all 4 escalators are closed, and only lifts are in operation. So, once you get off the train, you need to walk some distance from your coach to reach the lift.
How do I know the pain of walking all these distances?
I had hurt my foot and was working from home for a week. The first day I returned to work, I had someone drop me at the station (very close to my home) and made an effort to get into the train by walking slowly. But when I got off at Ameerpet station and asked for a wheel chair to my waiting cab downstairs, I was asked, 'had you asked for the wheel chair at you starting station? If not, you don’t get it here either.’
Slow walking (and delayed healing as a result) for the next couple of weeks was my only recourse.
Conclusion: Senior citizens, physically challenged…keep away! The metro is not for you.