Sunday, 31 January 2016


-Brian Mendonca

If you are among those who are terrified about entering lifts, you have company. Me. The phobia set in after I was stuck alone in a lift during my school days as I was taking it to my aunt’s place on the 7th floor in Eucress Building, Antop Hill, Wadala, Mumbai. Somehow the lift stopped midway and I panicked. Uncle Edgar came around and coaxed me to be calm and press the right buttons. I could see him shouting through the grills above me. Eventually the lift was manually operated and I clambered out.

Unfortunately, one cannot think of life sans lifts. With all developers going skywards, no one can envisage climbing 8 floors or 18. In Mumbai ‘towers’ have come up which have floors reaching for the sky. Most often lift attendants are absent and one has to summon up the courage to DIY (Do it yourself). If a) you cannot stand heights or b) are claustrophobic, you’ve got trouble.

Often I hover around the lift entrance waiting for someone to use the lift so I can have company. It doesn’t matter if they are not going to the same floor as me – I can always come down a few floors, or climb up one or two. Besides I really need to work on my fitness.

Lift doors are unpredictable. You have doors that will wait silently after they are drawn to exit but with a built-in alarm to remind the user to close the door. There are others where after a few seconds, the lift automatically shuts. In case you are in between it could be messy.

In Delhi the story goes that in a building, housing offices related to defense deals, a person was likely to spill the beans. On the fateful day the person took the lift to reach the designated floor. He never reached.

On December 27 last year, an electrician was crushed to death working on an elevator on a cruise liner off Miami. A passenger on the ship saw a rain of blood as he was on his way to dinner on the 10th floor deck.

The first lift was called a ‘flying chair’ and was made in 1743 for King Louis XV of France. It was placed outside his balcony to be used by his mistresses to avoid the prying eyes of the court. It was originally made for Madame de Chateauroux. It was used later by Madame de Pompadour.*

In 1850 Elisha Otis introduced the first elevator as we know it. Lifts have been powered by rope, steam, hydraulics and electricity.

Numerous have been the cases when the lift has stalled midway. In Navi-Mumbai I witnessed some rather large people being helped out of a lift between floors when it stalled because it had exceeded its capacity. People usually want to rush in and crowd the lift oblivious of the consequences. If someone is asked to wait, it is doubtful they would see reason.
*; pix of Sophia Myles as Mme de Pompadour in the episode 'The Girl in the Fireplace' in BBC science fiction teleserial Dr. Who (2006), courtesy cinfulthings(at); published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 31 January 2016. 

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