Mumbai: If you have been hot under the collar and grumbling about the heat and dust in the city and think 37 degrees is sweltering, try descending into the working site of the Mumbai Metro-3 corridor. It may completely alter your perspective. You will be convinced that 37 degrees is cool!
This was one assignment I longed to cover, as the photographer B L Soni and I decided to go down 70 feet under the roads of Mumbai, to be precise, to check the extent of work completed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL). For once I can say, the engineering marvel underfoot does make you forget the overhead traffic snarls that tire one on a daily basis.
As we walked into what was once a part of the Mumbai Sports Association ground, we enter a concrete construction site. Firstly, we had to sign a declaration form stating we were fit, which does mean both mentally and physically. Especially the latter, since the temperature is high and air is heavy. We passed a vast construction site with cranes, trucks and carrier vans around us. It is also compulsory to wear the protective gear, mainly a white helmet, a neon green and grey jacket which identifies one as part of the team and the boots were the most important.
I found myself stepping into the boots of a man! Once ready and hydrated, we had to carry an identity card which we had to swap with their token, in case we were left behind. We were first told of all the dos and don’ts, especially regarding any emergency. One needs to just hone the basic observational skills and be alert to protect oneself from the approaching worker train and falling rubble. Pretty much like one cares for oneself on the roads above.
An engineer accompanied us and we began our descent to the tunnel. Suddenly found ourselves going under girders and grilles, leaving familiar spots behind. Our cheer was cut short as the engineer reminded us of the number of steps we had to climb back up. He quipped it was the secret of leanness, as makes at least four trips regularly.
Once we reached below, we saw the tracks with the signals and a huge tunnel of the Metro-3 line from Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ. For the most part, this track is underground, especially in South Mumbai. It made us aware of all the space that was underground and how developers hadn’t yet grabbed it. We walked halfway of the one-and-a-half kilometres of this tunnel. This portion is ready as far as Kalbadevi and the passage till Girgaum is clear. We also got a feel of the metro as the working train plied back and forth.
Along the tracks we noticed there were intercoms and fire extinguishers every few metres. There is also first aid at the working site and in an emergency a way to evacuate the affected person was explained. A huge yellow pipe went down and along the tunnel. This is the pipe that feeds fresh air from above for the workers below.
As we returned, we saw a second tunnel, where work has been stalled due to the Bombay High Court case. By this time, we were encrusted with dirt and were profusely sweating and one’s eyes fell on the water trickling down the rocks like the tiny ones seen on the Western Ghats. The engineer told us, we were literally inside a well. Fascinating view of the city, to say the least.