March 10, 2007

Istri wallahs and rickshaw wallahs; be with us!

Have you discovered little joys locked in the pockets of your trousers after they have been pulled out of the washing machine?
I have.
Train tickets I should have carefully filed for my cautious auditor.
Phone numbers of new contacts scribbled on bits of waste paper.
Visiting cards of people I had met at press conferences.
But the most colourful bit - tickets my photographer and I had bought for what was the last trip the suburban electric train was to make from Madras Beach to Tambaram on the vintage metre gauge section.
Often, I haven't come to grief for my forgetfulness.
For, it is my 'ironing man' Bhaskar, who ferrets these bits from the depths, folds them out nicely and jabs them down with the 'istri'.
Istri-wallahs have a fund of tales about neighbours and the neighbourhood. After all, they handle the most vital essentials of us all. Our clothes. Bhaskar knows that the size of my trousers is increasing for the obvious reason.
And he also knows my weakness for T-shirts.
In our changing life styles, these men and women, like our maids, drivers, plumbers, watchmen, electricians and carpenters, have become an integral part of our lives.
And I got to know them a little better at a function held this past week on a campus on the banks of the Adyar.
Rotary has launched into yet another new project. To provide newly- designed ironing carts to the first set of 'ironing' families.
A young engineer had created a simple design for these carts – a light material sheet that cuts off the sun from above and from the side, fixed to simple supports on a wide platform on four wheels.
Akbar from Moolakadai was a proud owner of a new cart valued at about fifteen thousand rupees, and a free iron-box to go with the facility.
Now, he told me, he could accommodate more clothes and perhaps turn them over faster. From 100 pieces to about 150 pieces.
It wouldn't be easy though, he added. After all, he would still have to compete with two other istri-wallahs on the main road of a colony dominated by Christians.
Rotary should next turn to another community, which really has few cares in the world!
Our cyclerickshaw wallahs.
In Mylapore, they are still large in number and well patronised.
Their machines though need a bright new look.
And Rotary should consider them because they are enviro-friendly and they are great rides.

No comments: