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All about going up and down

Posted on Trivia- The Spice of Life on 29/01/2023

With increasing concretization of our urban agglomerates, the only scope for expansion is vertical, as there is little scope left for horizontal expansion. The logical fallout of that is sky scrapers with elevators to negotiate the ever increasing number of storeys. Elevators, thus, are now a part and parcel of our lives, especially in the cities. This is also the last queue, perhaps, which you have to stand in – in front of the elevator – before you finally reach your destination.

Lifts and Reel Life

Indian movies bear testimony to the fact that lifts too have got a facelift over the years. Films also use the lift as a place where the plot thickens. In the Satyajit Ray Bengali classic Mahanagar (1963), there is the office lift with collapsible gates. It is near/in the lift that Aarti Mazumdar (Madhabi Mukherjee) meets her Anglo-Indian colleague Edith Simmons (Vicky Redwood). Edith uses the lift to touch-up her makeup, as she gets to know Aarti. They are like chalk and cheese but in the end, Aarti ends up giving up her job for Edith.

Pyaasa (1957) too has a very interesting scene where Guru Dutt suddenly meets his ex-lover – Mala Sinha – in the lift. She forgets to get out of the lift upon encountering him. Guru Dutt enters the lift car and they both get talking with an enveloping air of melancholy engulfing them. The entire dream sequence song (Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein) plays out even as the two are still in the lift. When they reach the ground floor, he gets out and she realises that she actually had to go up and not down (main to bhool hi gayi, mujhe upar jaana hai). This is extremely symbolic as she had ditched the penniless Guru Dutt to marry a rich Rehman in order to move up in life. Lifts in the more recent movies are swanky. Today is the age of transparency and so there are panoramic elevators.

Screen Grab from Talaash; Courtesy :

There are quite a few songs too that have been shot in the lift like Mere Jeevan Saathi (Ek Dooje Ke Liye, 1981) and Main Kahin Kavi Na Ban Jaun (Pyaar Hi Pyaar, 1969). On a very different and sad note who can forget that the lift was the harbinger of a very untimely death for a very talented music director – Vasant Desai.

The Up(s) and Down(s) of Real Life

Coming back to real life, living in Mumbai, the elevator is an inseparable part of daily existence. However, it is interesting how manned lifts have a charm of their own. I prefer manned lifts to unmanned ones as they are more reassuring. Unmanned lifts could turn into death shafts if one is not vigilant and careful. This is particularly true when children are using the lift by themselves. The newspapers frequently report accidents with lifts.

Not one inch of advertising space wasted: Image Courtesy :

When I get into a manned lift, I love to observe the liftman. It has always made me wonder how the whole day, he/she goes up and down but gets nowhere. The liftman of my office lift – a middle-aged gentleman – is a joy to interact with. The lift is after all his workplace. With my office on the tenth floor, there is enough time to observe and interact. Punctual and courteous, he welcomes everyone with a smile. He ensures that there is a fresh flower stuck in one of the crevices of the lift above the panel. Though there is a stool for him to sit, he seldom does so. There are devotional songs playing softly from his mobile to keep him in high spirits the whole day.

We make it a point to smile and wish each other in the morning. We strike a conversation if there are no other passengers in the lift. Just last month, he excitedly told me about a long overdue vacation that he would be going for with his wife. And of course, thanking him comes naturally. It is only an acknowledgement of the hard work he does the whole day, cooped in a small car away from sunlight and fresh air.

Having spent a long time in the building as a lift man, he knows each one and the floors they work on. He has also observed the manner in which the working population has conducted itself over the years. He has seen umpteen interns of a law firm, on one of the floors, come and go. He has witnessed times when there were no mobiles. Now, he remarks, people are lost in their mobiles even in the lift. They do not talk to each other. There are still others who are using the mirror to straighten their hair which has got ruffled in the local train. He has interacted with the rich and the mighty who visit the building. He knows the lunchtime of all the occupants of the building and their food preferences as many a passenger is a food delivery boy. He is thus the repository of a lot of information irrespective of whether it is useful or not.

While millions of us use the lift to go up and down to progress in life, there are some whose progress lies only in going up and down. Do remember to acknowledge their contribution in your success; and yes, smile and thank them if you can.

Disclaimer claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from Daily Motion, YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

4 thoughts on “All about going up and down

  1. Thinking of the elevators and Hindi films together a couple of things popped up in my mind.

    First the unfortunate death of legendary composer Vasant Desai in a malfunctioning elevator. I remember him practically each time I enter an elevator.

    Second the song, Mere Jeevan Sathi from Ek Duje Ke Liye. Probably the only other song picturised in an elevator.



  2. Anita,
    This is a very loving description of lift as a metaphor, and the life of a lift man.

    Lifts played a very important role in our films, not only as a song setting. One abiding image is of a hero, anti-hero or a villain in dark glasses, pushing his feet inside as the lift door was about to close. This was always a memorable entry.

    An interesting setting was the country bumpkin, Amitabh Bachchan watching in amazement as an old haggard woman entered the lift, and out came a beautiful young girl!


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, AK ji! The latter part of the post came straight from the heart. You are right about the manner in which the angry young man or the bad man made a dramatic entry into the lift. The clip from Yaraana is really hilarious. I am pasting the link here.


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