Working class hero: The story of what it takes to pilot the Delhi metro

Working class hero: The story of what it takes to pilot the Delhi metro

By ANIRUDH VOHRA | | 23 January, 2016
Delhi metro in figurative terms can be called the backbone of the city, for it moves millions of people every day.

Are you a big fan of super heroes? Well if you have grown up on a daily dose of comics you will understand what we are about to say next. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Now that statement made to Peter Parker (who is Spiderman’s alter ego) by his uncle sums up the essence of life.

But what about people who don’t have a lot of power but it is their responsibility to make sure millions of people reach their desired destinations on time and safely? What do you call these people? John Lennon called them working class heroes. And we at the Guardian 20 agree with him in all aspects.

The people we are referring to today are a bunch of men and women who help us every day and we never thank them enough. We welcome on stage the backbone of the backbone of the city. Delhi metro in figurative terms can be called the backbone of the city. For it moves millions of people every day. Be it Anirudh going to office or Smita going to see her sister. One thing that is a common denominator between the two who else wise will never cross paths with each other.

Yes, it’s the metro drivers the working class heroes of the capital of India. Guardian 20 spoke to one of these heroes. Prashant Sharma (name changed) has been a driver with the Delhi Metro ever since its inception. The 38 year old father of two works for Eight Hours a day so the people like us can commute.

“It’s a fun job I must say, if you think about it I’m one of the people responsible for a father reaching home to see his kids after a hard day at work, or taking the same father to his office so that he can earn enough that he can give his kids a good future,” said Prashant while he got ready for work.

He lives in a small apartment with his wife and kids in Madangir a residential district in south Delhi. “I bought this house several years ago and am still paying the mortgage. But it’s still my house. A place that we all call home.”  An everyday person, with everyday problems, but responsible enough to realize the importance of his job.

Prashant was one of the few drivers who were responsible for teaching the, “new kids” as he likes to call them, drivers of the rapid metro in Gurgoan to handle the people moving boxes. “It was fun plus a bit irritating teaching the new kids, for some of them didn’t realize how important this job is,” Prashant said. “My wife used to say I scolded them like I scold my kids, it’s true I did scold them a lot but that’s only because I wanted then to understand the importance of this job and the responsibility that comes with it.” Prashant added.

For Rs.35,000 a month Prashant spends eight hours of his day at work driving an eight coach train from one part of the city to another. “I’ll be honest it does get a bit boring sitting there in the small cabin and driving around on the same track for eight hours. At times boredom gets so much that we feel sleepy. But a contineous intake of tobacco and music helps me not fall prey to it.”

The use or tobacco is a noted problem of drivers not just the ones who drive the metro but also the ones who drive trucks and buses for the monotous tasks make them sleepy and light headed at times. “I know it’s a bad habit and not doing good to my health, but think about it had it not been for this pudiya I would fall asleep behind the wheel of a train that has hundreds of people on board,” said Prashant.

Delhi metro in figurative terms can be called the backbone of the city, for it moves millions of people every day.

Remember the time when you were sitting in a car and constantly kept correcting the driver as you thought he wasn’t driving right. That is something Prashant feels everytime he rides a metro as well. “It gets irritating for me, I cannot keep it out of mind. I constantly complain about the train is being driven even when I’m not the one driving it. Either the speed is too high or the brakes were too hard. It’s right there in my head,” said Prashant with a smile of disappointment.

“Education is a must for every driver in the DMRC is a graduate for sure, it’s not easy to understand the complex trains, it’s not that driving them is hard but the driver also needs to understand a few things about the train he drives and for that education does come in handy,” said Prashant when he was questioned about the qualification of a driver.

The recent acquisition of driverless trains from the South Korean giant Hyundai, which will be running in the Phase 3 of the Delhi Metro will be a game changer for theses trains will not need a driver after they have been tried and tested fully. The phase three of the Delhi Metro will be operational by the end of 2016 and you can expect to see a driverless train in another six months as per the official announcements.

One would wonder that being a driver Prashant will be a bit worried about these new automated trains, but his answer was quite the opposite. “I think it’s a good idea to bring in these automated trains for a computer run train will never make any errors and will be perfectly connected to one another. Which will reduce a lot of troubles that we withness,” Prashant said.

“The time when the metro stops before a station as the other train has still not left is basically because the trains time gaps are not fixed but in case of automated trains this will not be the case. This is just one of the positives there are several others like it.” Prashant added.

“But what about people like you?” we asked. To that Prashant replied with a smile, “There are enough opportunities to work for the people who want to work, it’s not the being a driver is the only thing I’m good at. There are other jobs in the DMRC too. Plus this is India and you can’t just fire people here. Not something I agree with but yes it’s true. ”

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