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The Iron Lady

One of the nicest things I have in my life is a very nice woman who does my ironing.  In Ireland we call it ironing, in India, it is generally called 'pressing.'  Meira is my 'presswali'.  Her husband is the 'presswala'.  They live in a tiny flat in a house nearby.  They raised four sons in that tiny flat and I have no idea how they did it. The front half of  the flat is completely open.  If you want to find Meira, the chances are you'll find her ironing clothes beside her husband.  She delivers the clothes as well.  She also visits people at home and washes their clothes if required.  This family belongs to the 'dhobi' caste or community and their traditional occupation is laundry.  They have a fan and recently purchased a desert cooler.  They have a tiny television set and you always see members of their family watching 'Mahuaa', the Bhojpuri (variation of Hindi) language channel.  Their kitchen is separated from the rest of the flat by a curtain.

Meira is always smiling and happy.  Most unusually, she looks no more than twenty five years old although I estimate her age as forty, given the size of her sons.  I've always noticed that in the service communities the women tend to age rapidly owing to the bitter experiences which are every woman's lot here, not to mention the difficulty of struggling through life.  She recently became a grandmother to a baby girl and I've never seen a more cherished infant in my life.  She is adored by the whole family.  Meira's son and daughter-in-law come and go, they don't live with the parents.

Meira irons the clothes perfectly and so cheaply.  She has a brain like a computer and never forgets how much you owe her.  Although she has had ample opportunities to cheat me, because I often pay her in advance and forget about it, she has never cheated me on as much as a rupee.

One of the most impressive things about that family is that they have sent all their children to school.  I remember seeing the children studying by lamplight when I called in to leave clothes for ironing.  All their boys are working and they have an air of prosperity and happiness about them which is very reassuring.  Another impressive quality of Meira is the way she handles her husband.  One day, she very discreetly let me know that she would rather I paid her the money directly rather than giving it to her husband.  Apparently, he likes a drink.  Enough said.  I understood.

They have a lot of customers and if they have any fault at all it is probably that sometimes you have to wait for your ironing if you don't let them know you need it immediately.  One day I forgot to tell her and when I turned up to collect my clothes they were not ready.  Her husband gave her a dirty look and started scolding her bitterly.  I was terribly embarrassed.  Then I noticed something.  Meira was still smiling.

"There was a power cut," she said calmly.  "I can't press clothes in the dark!"  That was it.  She never let him bother her.  I've learnt a lot from that woman.


  1. I like this post. Its so amazing to hear stories like this of people way off in their own little corner of the world,


  2. Inspirational woman. I really like this post, but I have said it before I just love the way you write ;).

    Have a great Sunday.

  3. A wise and happy woman... the husband shoud be very happy to have her... and she knows how to stop him from scolding her! :-D
    PS: I love ironing!

  4. Meira sounds like a well grounded lady with a lovely temperament. I actually enjoy ironing and find it relaxing. Now there are a few other jobs about the place that I wouldn't mind handing over!

  5. It's nice when you can rise above. I used to fight back when my husband was being a jerk. Now I just walk away.

  6. Meira sounds like an amazing woman. I love to hear of people who can keep on smiling through whatever life may throw at her. Of course, if you speak to her she may well consider that she's had a very lucky life. After all, it sounds like she has all the work she can handle and a large and (mostly) loving family. I'd love to read one of your stories Maria written from Meira's point of view. I get the feeling she would have interesting tales to tell. Maybe she learns something interesting about the neighbours through ironing their clothes...

    Great post as always Maria. Really got me thinking!


  7. These are the stories that need more publicity than our khap panchayat types. There are heroes amongst us who are great entrepreneurs providing a service and making a dignified living. These however are taken for granted and we give wide publicity to a frustrated model committing suicide.

  8. This post made me feel a little better ... thanks for that!


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