The fire brigade drove past my hotel. Something’s up. No lights at Hussein’s corner shop and the female fire officer is Ranni. Ranni told me the elevator was stuck between the fourth and fifth  floor of the apartments above. She says two women and one man, all Indians, have been in the lift since the power went off an hour ago.

The fire brigade needs the building owner’s permission to get them out. The Chinese owner was on the phone, trying to call the elevator mechanic. The Indians from the apartments were getting antsy. “They can’t breath,” said one Indian. He was getting news feeds from the hostages in the lift on his Twitter account. The Chinese owner said that wasn’t true. “The fire brigade just opened up the door a little so they can breath.” Some of the Indians went to the police station to ask for the police for permission for the fire brigade to save them.

I had been stuck in an elevator before. It was horrible. I said it couldn’t be comfortable. “Yes,” said the owner, “but my safety adviser said you can’t die in an elevator. He said just keep calm and wait for help.” The owner didn’t want to risk damaging his lift. I said. “Yes, but you are still alive.” He was convinced the people in the lift wouldn’t suffer.

An Indian man was not happy with all the waiting around. We got constant updates from the people stuck in the lift that still they couldn’t breath.  He tried to talk sense to the Chinese owner. “We have the fire brigade, and they are here to help.” “Five more minutes,” said the Chinese owner, and before the Indian could say it was a racial thing, “this is not the time nor the place to talk about this.”

Another Indian came. He’d gone to the police station again to ask for permission for the fire brigade to break down the elevator door. “They won’t allow it,” said the Indian. “The owner is Chinese and he has already called them to say no.”

One of the Indian men cursed at the Chinese. His friends kept him  at a safe distance. I said I wanted to go up and follow the fire workers who checking up on the elevator hostages. “No you won’t,” said the owner.” A bomb might go off.”

Ranni the Indian fire officer was getting worried. “If they die, we are responsible for their deaths, not the owner.” She whispered “the Chinese are always like this, always thinking about the cost of things over the saving of a life.”

The Chinese steps aside into the convenience store. He’s alone with irate Indians with no police in sight. The station is ten metres away.  The rescue workers tell him if his elevator mechanic isn’t here in five minutes they are breaking in. They ask the owner for the key. He says he doesn’t have it.

Then the mechanic arrives. Five minutes later the lift’s three hostages are downstairs enjoying fresh air. One of the hostages, a middle aged lady, is shaking and has a bad leg. She can’t walk up and down the stairs. I tell her breath deeply in and out, get some fresh air. She shows me her feet. She’s only wearing one sandal. “I lost the other to the lift,” she says. “Water,” I say to Hussein, a Malay shop keeper, “get these guys water.”

An Indian man says before she entered the lift, the power was flicking on and off. “Don’t go in there,” he’d advised. She’d said it would only be a minute. Nearly two hours later they were downstairs and laughing about their ordeal. The Indians who were heated up are shaking hands with the Chinese owner. The Chinese owner said we needed to think before we spoke. “You can’t suffocate in an elevator.” He is still waiting for his electrician.

I never saw the police the whole time. “Why would they want to leave their air con offices for the sake of three Indians in the lift?” asked the hostages’ spokesman. Later I saw the Chinese man at my local café. He seemed offended I sided with the Indians. “See, no one died,” he said. He’s being smug about it. “No,” I replied, “and no bombs either.”

Now the Indians love me. No they don’t, they fucking adore me. Word has spread like wild fire that a foreigner stuck up for the Indian community. I’m their hero. I was the one who stood up against the evil Chinese who wouldn’t let the fire brigade break into his precious lift to free the Indians stuck in it.

I get taps on the back, a wave here or there, and discounts at all the Indian shops in the neighbourhood. The Indian hair dresser from Pondicherry knew exactly what style I wanted.He parted my hair and cut  away with the electrical cutters. It was a perfect cut. He started massaging my head. Thump thump thump. Stop, I said. I was seeing triple.

To make up for it he took out a egg beating contraption and started massaging my head. He knew my feel good sensations were purring. Yes I stood up to the fucking Chinese who didn’t care about the discomfort of the Indians.

He was a smug little bastard too.


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