Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lahore, Metro Bus and I

Last weekend I was in Lahore and I decided to travel the much touted Lahore Metro. However, when I 'expressed' my desire to friends around, they cautioned me that if I could afford to stand during its entire journey from Kalma Chowk to Shahdara amid sweaty crowd, I could take a chance.

But before my adventure, a friend came up with a plausible solution and advice - he asked me to go up to Gajju Matta, the start point of the Metro on its eastern end ahead of Model Town and from there board the bus as I was likely to get a seat. He also made arrangements for dropping me at Gajju Matta. 

So I along with my younger son Wahaab went to Gajju Matta station and climbed up the much advertised escalator, which as per reports and claims of the Punjab Chief Minister were to be functional round the clock even if there was no electricity. So finding these out of order, I could understand that there was no electricity and no fuel in the big generator installed nearby.

We bought the token for Rs. 20 each and went down on the platform and just bade farewell to a bus already at the platform since it had been boarded adequately. Soon another bus followed and we hopped in and were just in time to find two seats as the bus immediately had all its seats filled up.

And by a few stops ahead, the bus was packed to its capacity. The air conditioning which was good in the beginning, started to get warmer as sweaty passengers added humidity in the bus. But we still had some cold left to sit comfortably. The bus was snail pacing rather than running comfortably - upon inquiry a passenger, who said he was a regular commuter, told me that these buses are not new and cannot run faster. The crying engine of the bus supported his answer. When climbing bridges, the bus would slow down to an extent that one could get down and have a stroll along side the bus till it 'regained' its speed once reaching the top of the bridge.

The bus went along Ferozepur Road and then to Pakistan Secretariat and finally I could see the minaret like architecture of Government College Lahore - my college where I studied in early 70s, from behind the thick trees.

It was really thrilling to travel by the GC(U) with its full blown view right in front of me and its lush green Oval.

The next landmark was the Badshahi Mosque - but I could only have a glimpse of its minarets and domes from behind electric wires and old houses of Lahore.

 A passing by Metro
 A man watches the bus with his mouth open near a crossing
 Two lads listening to music on their mobile phones

Reaching the Ravi bridge, the Metro leaves its fenced track and gets on the main road to cross the bridge and then again get into its fenced route. Above a bus is seen amid ordinary traffic coming from Shahdara.

 The Ravi continues to flow down the Old Ravi Bridge inaugurated in the 60s 

We reached Shahdara in about one hour plus time, which I think was not bad in a partially air conditioned bus for just Rs.20. And I was impressed by the number of people travelling, mostly from end to to end. We got down the bus, halted at the exit machines, inserted the yellow coin and were 'graciously allowed' exit by the machine. We climbed up the metal stairs to buy tickets for our return journey - this time up to Kalma Chowk only.

The bus on the way back was more older and rusty than the previous one as its engine would  make large noises as it moved even on flat roads. And on bridges, it almost gave up - but thank God did not stop.

 Traffic warden himself without a helmet - or even his cap

  The famous Kalay Khan Hotel
 State of finish work of bus stations
 Government College once again on our return journey
 Journey along Ferozepur Road - being Sunday, all shops were closed

Qaddafi Stadium Entrance

Passing in front of the Qaddafi Stadium Lahore entrance, Kalma Chowk was not far. Nearing our destination, the two Metro Bus 'riders' got up and our seats were immediately filled up by those standing near us - for they must have taken a sigh of relief seeing two seats getting vacated. 

So at Kalma Chowk our two way journey in Lahore Metro came to an end - it was a good experience. But the condition of buses speak of their short lived life and I am afraid these will see the junk yard soon. But for regular commuters between Gajju Matta and Shahdara, it is something that ordinary travelers would have never imagined - air conditioned commuting for just twenty bucks.

All photos are property of the writer and may not be used elsewhere without prior permission
via Jaho Jalal


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