My husband was seated next to one participant from India, and his colleague was seated diagonally to me. They were regaling tales and experiences in their lives which I did not pay much attention to until something caught my attention.
I overheard the one who was seated next to my husband explaining why there they were staying on a lower floor at the hotel in Bangkok. And usually when they stay at hotels, they would specifically request for the lowest floor available. At the hotel we stayed in, they were lucky as this hotel did not have a ballroom, hence, the rooms are located from the second floor onwards.
And these two Indian nationals had specifically requested to be located on the second floor. I was greatly amused to hear that they were fearful of taking the elevators, hence would prefer to take the stairs. The reason for this deep-set fear was because, back in Mumbai, India, elevators break down so often that they often had to climb up or down several flights of stairs. And due to this embedded fear, whenever they travel, they would avoid the higher floors and elevators like the plague.
And this amusing encounter with these two colorful characters brought to mind my late aunty who had this deep and genuine fear of escalators. She used to live in Butterworth, Penang. And those days, whenever she came down to KL, we would take her shopping. And every time we had to take the elevators to the higher floors, she would be whining and crying softly and begging us to use the staircase instead. And despite much cajoling and trying our level best to convince her that the elevator was perfectly safe, she would not budge. She would stand her feet firmly at the foot of the escalator, and refused to follow us.
There were numerous occasions where after several attempts, we had no choice but to look for a staircase. However, on one, mind you, just one momentous occasion, I managed to convince her to take the elevator, she cried hysterically and was struggling like a maniac all the way up, that all eyes were on us. People were staring, with their mouth and eyes wide open, looking at us, family. as though we were creatures from another planet. I promised myself that was going to be the last ever that we would attempt to switch her to technology.
Mami Pahbee (as we fondly called her), may Allah bless your soul. Al-fatihah.