Rising by Winding Stairs

Among things which have fascinated me are stairs. We stayed on the first floor in my younger days, and at my home, there was a main stairs to reach home, and another, a metal one winding stairs which opened up in servant’s room. Climbing the two were different experiences. And one of them provided a stealthy passage out of home!

Climbing stairs of my school was an altogether different experience. There were several other students who were moving up or down and quick ‘Kaay re’ [Hello] was exchanged. No student ever climbs up or down the stairs of his school without jumping steps. It has to be done fast and quick. Why does this happen in every school I do not know, although girls do not prefer to spend their energy like boys do on stairs.

I remember my eyes were glued to the stairs of Taj Hotel in Mumbai when I first went there. The beauty and magnificence is stunning. There are many beautiful hotels in the world, but no other hotel has this kind of stairs. And with the history of 26/11, they evoke a very different feeling.

You will also find a beautiful stairs at Renaissance at Powai. It takes you from the Coffee Shop to the upper floor. It is a DNA like in design, it looks so if you take view from the ground floor, but for all its beauty it is no match to the Taj.

The only stairs which is so strikingly dissimilar to Taj stairs and yet can claim as much admiration and attention is the one at Asiatic Society in Mumbai. Wow! It too is stunning, and invites you to enter the great institution. A building in Melbourne has a similar look and gave me similar feeling. [See pic above]

[The pic shows a stairs at Taj Gateway, Nashik. Good one, but no match to the Taj in Mumbai].

There are some institutions which do not have stairs! Yet they are so beautiful!! The wonderful old campus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences is built sans stairs. The old campus has a distinct persona which is conspicuously absent in the new campus. Equality, levelling is created, or rather emphasised, in the structure itself. That is not how the new campus is built. The new campus has a very unimaginative design. Full of stairs. I am sure that the architect must have thought ‘the budding HR professionals who will eventually build or destroy hierarchies must get used to stairs in life.’

When you go to south, particularly Chennai, you notice some interesting stairs. I am told that a lot of songs are filmed on stairs in ‘Tollywood.’ And films from all ‘woods’ use stairs for the fight sequence. In life too most of the fights take place on the issue of deciding your place on the ladder!

One song from Hindi film is very beautifully picturised on stairs. It is Dev Anand – Nutan all-time favourite ‘Dil ka bhanvar kare pukar’ from ‘Tere Ghar ke Samne.’ Can you say the same about the title song of ‘Amar Akbar Anthony?’ Or ‘Ek Do Teen’ song of Anil Kapoor partly filmed in Akbarally’s at Chembur [as it was then]? No way. Not graceful. The Director has also filmed it on the stairs of Asiatic Library – most inappropriate in my view – frivolousness of Bollywood songs and such gracefulness of the location just do not go together.

Elevator was a novelty on my school days and escalators arrived on the scene much later. BMC fitted one at Chowpaty near Charni Road in Mumbai but so many people used the escalator which was a novelty then that it quickly went out of order and then was removed.

Malls are not creating good stairs. Most of them hide their bad stairs and present the escalators. Some of those escalators look great, created almost to perfection, but the stairs of institutions has exclusiveness. They are not commonplace like escalators. Escalators are like McBurger, all over the world it is same! The stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg said, “An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.”

And the new addition is now travellators. They are functional, they do not add to your spirit, they do not make a structure look better. They are the opposite of a walking stick! Singapore Airport has used travellators well and guarantees transfer from anywhere to another spot in the airport in not more than ten minutes. When I tried those fitted at Kolkata Airport it was a different story. You could walk faster than the travellator. The new international airport at Mumbai would have done well to add travellators.

Stairs look more beautiful to me now perhaps because I find it painful to climb thanks to my age. And I am always amused when I see heads of State deliberately climbing stairs of airplane quickly to show to the world that they are still young!

Vivek Patwardhan
PS: I have not written about stairs in the Government offices. You know why, right?