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Reading Delhi through its Metro rail system

Rashmi Sadana's new book Metronama is a sensory journey through what this iconic infrastructure means for people, places and society.

March 05, 2022 / 05:54 PM IST
The Delhi Metro is used as a framing device in 'Metronama',  to tell the story not just of this city, but of how infrastructures reshape our urban worlds. (File image: Twitter/@OfficialDMR)

The Delhi Metro is used as a framing device in 'Metronama', to tell the story not just of this city, but of how infrastructures reshape our urban worlds. (File image: Twitter/@OfficialDMR)

Fancy taking a ride on the Delhi Metro, a stroll around its stations and conversing with planners, riders and observers without stepping out of your home?

Rashmi Sadana's new book , brought out in India by Roli Books' Lotus imprint, could be a great starting point.

For those who know Delhi, the book evokes images that are all too familiar. For those yet to visit, it is a teaser of the complex and compelling offerings of an enormous, historic metropolis that seeks, through its Metro system, to stand shoulder to shoulder with global cities like Paris, London and New York.

This pursuit of world-classness is an enduring trope of Delhi and its metro system, but does not overly burden itself with this idea. Sadana studied the Delhi Metro for over a decade. Like many anthropologists before her, she reads and narrates infrastructure in political and social terms in this book. Its short, concise chapters each tell a single story, of people, places, events and perspectives. Sensory and lyrical, the narrative yo-yos between the quotidian and discursive, at times drawing you into someone's life and at other times zooming you out towards social science theory. Much like the movements in and out of the Delhi Metro itself, from noisy, crowded, smelly streets into underground stations and tunnels where the deep rumbles lull you to much-needed sleep or help you finish that half-heard podcast.