Indeed, the catchline My Metro is apt: such is the identification with the mode of transport wherever it occurs.
It has always ended up doing more than it is designed to, and its patrons have not wasted time personalizing its public spaces, turning them into stages where urban subcultures play out. Consider two vastly different worlds, London and Kolkata, and yet see the similarity of local pride invested in the underground system. It is not about the quality of service. Neither is it about the extent of it. If anything, it is about the 09:09 to King’s Cross or Kalighat and how the commute shapes daily life.
Dubai is a young city — on the threshold of starting its own internodal train service — and it might be a while before the Metro starts signing off daily life here. In comparison, the London Underground has existed for 156 years, time enough for habits to calcify in a tradition-proud nation. However, My Metro in Our Dubai need not wait till 2156 to be seen as an urban leitmotif no less. The Metro in Kolkata is just three decades old; already, it is an institution that clocks life in a timeless city, and its denizens nurse it with passion. In Dubai, too, such identification in double quick time is not inconceivable.
People have their own reasons to commute by train. Oddly enough, for some the stations and cocooned interiors of trains are havens of relaxation, the rush-and-tumble notwithstanding: the ride is the only interlude between the cares of home and pressures of work. For others, it might be about catching up on reading, or hearing a favourite busker playing the Long and Winding Road. The more a city grows, the greater the chances of unfamiliar faces in public spaces.
It is not so with this public space. In a city of millions, what are the odds on sharing a compartment with the same set of people day upon day? You never wish them, or even look at them with direct eyes, yet their dress sense quietly ends up informing your own sartorial habits. It happens, and that could be the unspoken, barely acknowledged reason for some.
Whatever the reason, should the idea catch popular fancy — as in fact it is known to do — life here will change. And it is not about the prospect of Dubai’s carbon footprint paling into more acceptable shades of grey.
That is an ideal towards which the UAE, as the new home to renewable energy, has started working. More simply, it is about the indescribable thing called My Metro.