Saturday, March 31, 2007

the 2 rupee Iron Lady

Another luxury I miss is the 2 rupee per shirt iron lady or "ishtri aka." This aka will do the rounds of the neighborhood, coming door-to-door asking for clothes to be ironed or "tunni."

One thing I used to enjoy was answering my own door from time to time. Most households have a maid who will filter all the traffic that comes to the door on a daily basis - the washing machine repairman, the unsavory looking guy soliciting odd jobs, etc. When unsuspecting visitors see me answering the door, their expression is one of shock, confusion, and apprehension. Perhaps their first thought is how rich are these people, to have a white maid answering the door, and then their second thought is that i probably do not know a word of any of the local languages, so what to do now.

Ishtri aka comes to the door and asks hesitantly in Tami and Hindi for clothes. She will then go to her cart under a shady tree and iron the neighborhood's tunni the entire day, delivering them late in the afternoon. There are no official records kept by either party in the transaction - you just make sure to double-count your number of shirts and pants, and she will do likewise. Multiply that number by 2 and that is the amount she will ask for in the afternoon. Her iron
looks like something that existed perhaps even before the British came... it really is made of iron and subdues wrinkles better than anything you could pick up at macy's.

She recently raised her rates to 2.50 rupees per shirt, to keep up with the rising tide of the indian economy.

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