Following Patterns


“A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects. The elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner”. I have always been able to find patterns in every activity. We are surrounded by periodical, rhythmic and repeating activities. It is not always visible and the pattern can be varied. If you take a closer look at the activities around, you will definitely find a pattern. Even while travelling in a metro, one can observe patterns in various activities. Some are very obvious like frequency of metros. While others are not very obvious at first glance, such as ratio of long distance metros to short distance metros on a particular route.

Not that I am always applauded for my ability to do, there have been times when I have been proved wrong. I won’t suggest that there are many instances, yet I can’t claim I am always correct. Recently I have started traveling with my colleagues in the metro. We share a common half-way destination, which makes it convenient to travel together. I have inundated them with my research on patterns with metro frequency and commuter behavior. Majority of times my findings have helped them save precious time. At times they have been able to manage to avoid maddening rush hour crowds.

But today was different, I was on a high after finishing my work early. Avoiding rush hour traffic is a very important aspect of my daily commuting. I feel elated by the mere prospect of reaching Rajiv Chowk station before 5:00pm. I guess, for me, it is an achievement of some sort. My colleague was also happy and chatty. I was teasing her for being slow in wrapping her stuff and causing a delay. We had just reached the platform when a train was moving out. Which meant if we were early by just a minute, we would have boarded it. Nobody likes this feeling. I have seen people falling and scrambling to board the train when it was just about to move. We thought better and decided to leave the train. However, the next train was scheduled after 5 minutes according to the electronic display board. This information was not very helpful. She would also not agreeing to walk a couple of meters to “ladies only” coach. I don’t appreciate travelling in crowded general coaches. However, we decided to board the almost crowded coach of the next metro.

I was repeating my concerns over crowded coach and trying to convince her to move ahead. In our discussions I happen to boast my ability to understand the patterns. The whole concept was not very appealing to her. To gain some brownie points, I suggested, “You know we should get down at the next station. If we leave two metros, we will be able to board the one which starts from there. This will help us find seats and travel comfortably without being bothered by the crowd”. She did not believe me. I had to put an ice-cream as a betting bait to make her follow my plans.

Though she got down at the station, she kept reminding me about losing time and ending up in the rush hour chaos. But I was too engrossed to prove “there-is-a-pattern-and-I-know-it” argument, to bother about rush hour crowd.

Her count down started after one metro, she said we are “one-metro-down”. She added, “Now according to your research, we need to leave the next metro too”. Which we indeed did. But we were supposed to take the next metro as per my research. My research stated the pattern as three long distance metro and then one short distance metro. This did not happen, we were standing there for next fifteen minutes, with a count of “five-metro-down”. Every metro seemed to be over crowded compared to the one we had boarded initially. This was not good for my self-esteem. She was laughing at me. She kept reminding me about the ice-cream I owed her. She was loud enough to make other commuters interested in our conversation. I had started noticing a couple of them trying to contain their smiles.

I was still wondering how can I go wrong. Tried hard to do the algorithm again, the fourth metro should have been the designated short distance metro. There were two metros which were terminated at the state. So technically, we should have at least one starting from here by now. Finally after leaving six metros, came the one which we were waiting for. My colleague was not impressed by this mis-endeavor.

Nevertheless it was her chance to mock at me all the way to Rajiv Chowk station. I was feeling depressed, it seemed all my co-passengers were conspicuously smiling at me. She said, “Tomorrow lunch session will be dedicated to your research on patterns”. I knew better, not only tomorrow’s lunch, for next one month at the very mention of word metro, this incident will be narrated by my colleague.

Next morning when I reached Rajiv Chowk station, I waited for ten minutes to confirm the pattern. Yes, indeed after two long distance metros, there was one for shorter distance. My calculations were accurate as I waited and let go of next six metros. Suddenly realized, need to be on time for a call!!!

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