What goes up, must come down!!!
On my way back to India with my inlaws, do you know who found one silver lining in the cloud of my father-in-law breaking his hip and therefore being transported in wheelchairs? My mother-in-law!! And she admitted to the same after we reached India. You know why? Because, she got to use the elevators (lifts, as my friends from India would say) at every airport!!
You see, I had gone to India to get them from there in April. And on the way back, I was determined to modernize my mother-in-law’s outlook. I had simply refused to let her use the elevators. Instead forced her to take the escalators (the moving steps). I was carrying all their handbags myself. Still, I would hold her hand firmly to help her step on and step off the moving escalator. I was absolutely determined to break her fear of moving escalators.
Unfortunately, I failed miserably. In that and getting her to get rid of her saree and wear a little more comfortable Indian clothes (from mobility point of view) while in US. But the process of trying to get her to get used to escalators was absolutely hilarious.
I knew I was in trouble when in Kolkata itself, she revolted at the sight of the moving staircase, let alone the prospect of stepping onto one! Given her familiarity with the world where the steps were stationary and the people were moving, her reaction was somewhat as jarring as the first time humankind was told that the sun was stationary (and frankly, doing fine!) while we were the ones hurtling at an uncontrollable speed through vacuum 🙂
By the time we reached Dubai, trying to get her on to an escalator was like trying to get a cow climb downstairs (which, I am told they are incapable of and certainly oppose vigorously if forced to do so). First, I lied through my nose and told her that there were no elevators in Dubai airport. And then I willingly, patiently waited till everybody from the plane cleared the escalator. We had, after all, five hours to kill. Then I took her to the escalator.
Her attempt to try it by herself was as gingerly as it could ever get. She would get in front of the staircase, look around, see that somebody hundred yards away were headed towards her and then immediately step aside to let that person go!! Mind you… hundred yards!! No less!!
Eventually, she ran out of excuses. She stepped up to the base of the staircase and kept on staring at the steps as one after the other new steps kept emerging from the abysss – seemingly endlessly. You could see that in her mind, she was taking a deep breath and going “Okay, I got this. I got this. It is the next step that is coming. Well, no, the next to next. Yes, yes, wait wait… let’s make it the next one. Or maybe the next to next one. That is it. The next one. Here it is. Yep! that is the one! Oops, it is too far away now!!! Dang it! Next one!! I wonder if anybody is looking at me.”
At this point of time, I held her hand and simply stepped on to the next moving step. She was forced to walk with me. Now, when I say “walk”, what I mean is that her legs took the step. The upper body had not quite realized this obvious betrayal by the legs. Resulting in her leaning backward completely, pretty much at the same angle as the steps were emerging – further deepening her belief that moving escalators were not meant for the civilized world.
If getting up was that onerous, you can only imagine what stepping out was like. She realized she did not have a choice. She HAD to get down. In her mind, there was a nanosecond of window of opportunity and if she missed that by even as much as a whisker, she would be swallowed whole by the underground or wherever those steps were vanishing to!! I literally pushed her off the step.
In the flight to US, I explained how she was becoming too conscious of herself. Even if she did not get off, she would be nudged out. And there were three steps that become flat before they vanished. All she needed to do is just walk. Just walk naturally, and she would not even notice.
All through the flight, she must have thought about my words and mentally prepared herself. When it was time for her to move off the moving escalator at the DC airport train station, she was all prepared. And by all prepared, I mean she had one leg up and two hands up ready to pull off a high jump at the first cue. As we approached that line where the steps and ground meet, she was a veritable picture of a contemplative crane vaguely trying to take a jujitsu stance on one leg!!
But she made it. She stepped off. Or rather jumped off – landing that other leg with the satisfaction befitting something in the lines of “one step for a woman, a giant leap etc etc etc”. In all that momentary satisfaction, she had given complete short shrift to – at her own peril, I might add – Newton’s law of inertia. You don’t get off a moving escalator and stop there to survey the landscape around with great satisfaction. Newton was there to push her forward with his whole might of first law of motion. And in case Newton was slipping in his duties, a whole herd of passengers were there behind her to jolt her forward. Once again, I had to quickly step in and hold her arm firmly.
Eventually, we reached home. Partly pushed, partly pulled, but mostly dragged. Once home, Sharmila showed them the whole set up. They had their own guest quarters in the main living floor. In case, they wanted more privacy, she had another bedroom and bathroom set up downstairs. Not knowing if stairs would be too much of a bother at their advancing age, Sharmila asked “siri-tey osubidhey hobey”? [[“would stairs be a hassle?”]]
There was an immediate cloud of fear come over my mother-in-law’s eyes. Completely startled (“piley chomkey gelo”), she jumped out of her skin and yelled “toder-tao norey?” [[“Yours moves too?”]] 🙂
You can then only imagine the smirk on her face at every airport on our way back as the person helping my father-in-law with the wheelchair took us to the nearest elevator!!!