When you walk into many apartments or condo complexes in India, you’ll notice that there’s something called a “service elevator“.
The service elevator is clearly marked. No resident dare step into the elevator meant only for those who perform the dirty work. The maids, the cooks, the cleaners, the drivers, and everyone else who provides services to those who stay in the apartment.
The service elevator exists to ensure that the residents don’t have to mix with the lower classes of society. The service elevator exists so that our young kids don’t have to spend even a minute with those “dirty” maids and cleaners. The service elevator exists so that I don’t have to smile at the driver or make small talk with the cook. I only need their services. I don’t need to be human to them.
But service elevators are for the privileged maids and cleaners who work in fancy condos. In some places, the unfortunate poor people aren’t even allowed to use the elevators. The staircase is all they get.
The President of the Resident welfare association was so proud when he got a poster printed which clearly states “LIFT ONLY MEANT FOR RESIDENTS. NOT FOR MAIDS“.
He might as well have put “LIFT ONLY MEANT FOR HUMANS., NOT FOR MAIDS” because they aren’t even worthy of the basic respect and dignity that a human being deserves. Why not just call them “non-human humans“!?
The service elevator is classist. It is a textbook example of discrimination. The fact that some people aren’t even worthy of sharing an elevator with me.
One resident proudly told me, even in luxury hotels, they have service elevators! My goodness, does he know that luxury hotels use service elevators to ensure that their housekeeping/F&B services are run smoothly? It exists to make sure goods/food and other items are carried across the hotel smoothly. Not for the same reason, you have a service elevator.
Does your apartment work the same way as a luxury hotel? The apartment women need maids to take care of their spoilt kids. The apartment bachelors need cooks to cook their meals. The old retired couple needs their driver to take them around.
But they don’t need the cook or the driver or the maid. They only need the services they provide. In other times, it’s more convenient that they stay invisible. Far away from sight. Use the service elevator. I don’t want to mingle with you.
The service elevator does not need to be cleaned or maintained. When the power goes off, and the lift is stuck, the guards are instructed to first rescue those in the normal elevator. Servicemen and women can wait.
A woman was once shouting at her kid. I assumed that he did something naughty, as all kids do. But when I overheard her saying that the next time he uses the service elevator by mistake, he won’t even be allowed into their house, I felt a chill go down my spine.
The service elevator is a status symbol. “Look how awesome I am. My apartment has a lift for the maids so that I don’t need to see them”. Those stinky humans can stay far away from me until I need them to make me tea, of course.
So I thought I’ll break this system. And how? I use the service elevator, much to the shock of the residents who see another resident casually walk out of a lift meant for the maids. Use the service elevator. Break down the barriers. Classism isn’t classy.