Inside the service lifts of posh high-rise apartments

While reading the book “Dharma Artha Kama Moksha”, I came across a chapter Worlds Above & Below. The chapter spoke about the Pataal Lok, home of the asuras, the Bhu Lok, home of the humans and the Deva Lok, home of the devatas. Pataal Lok is filled with gold and gems but asuras are never able to enjoy this wealth. They also hold the secret of regeneration and renewal and help plants grow. People in upper realms toil to pull this wealth to the surface of earth. Hence, asuras are always insecure, working hard to preserve this wealth. People in the Bhu Lok perform yajna and offer wealth to the gods in Deva Lok in return of boons and blessings. Gods in Deva Lok do no work and enjoy music and dance. According to the author, the entry and exit to and from these realms are not permanent and depends on a person’s karma.

While taking the lift to the vending machine in the basement, I noticed one of the lifts was marked as “service lift”. I didn’t find anything wrong. This service lift was covered with card-board to protect the walls from scratches from heavy objects like bricks, cement, furniture etc. And while carrying construction or shifting homes, having a designated lift to carry goods would not disturb or delay the usual passengers. In bigger office buildings, I have often seen service lifts to have limited access to maintain security protocols.

However, this time what shocked me was service lifts being used as an instrument of class-divide. There couldn’t have been a bigger eye opener to the existence of classism in India than the pandemic. Until now, class-based discrimination was practiced within the house-walls by separating dishes and washrooms etc but with pandemic forcing people to              build a fortress around them, the first victims are the people in the lower realms- the construction workers, delivery agents, maids and cooks. While I am writing this, my society WhatsApp group is buzzing with people demanding the workers, housekeeping staff etc to take the service lift only.

Some of you would say, it’s fair because these people visit several flats and could have been in contact with Covid-19 patients. Yes, may be but what makes us trust our fellow residents but not them. Just a fortnight ago, I saw several educated residents of a posh society playing Holi together despite strict instructions from government. Breaking rules and not following guidelines is just a matter of choice for the privileged. They can happily work from home, order online and even if they contract Covid-19, they can afford a 5-lakh bed in a private hospital. But I have seen my cook struggling for livelihood last year and my maid taking extra precautions because she fears for her children’s health. Yet, they are the ones called careless and spreaders.

I remember this incident clearly. It happened before the pandemic era. I was in the lift with an elderly gentleman. A food delivery agent who was probably late for his 30-min or free delivery tried to enter the lift (which could hold 13 people) but was shooed away by the old man. Before I could say anything, he said in his bossy tone- “He can take the next one.” It amused me. Apparently, the limits of the world made by God is fluid but the ones made by man are as rigid as rock.

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