One thing I dearly miss about India is the press walla. A walla is a person in charge of a particular thing. Such as a book walla, a flower walla, a juice walla (establishments that sell only fresh juices), or the press walla who irons clothes. There was a press walla on just about every corner where we lived and they were usually a family business. The establishment often being a simple wooden stand sort of like the basic lemonade stand children set up to sell their goods.
Now I could certainly iron our clothes, but taking them to the press walla not only gave us a chance to support the local people, but to also get to know them as much as the language barrier would allow. English is widely spoken by educated Indians, but many locals speak only their regional language. In this case, Hindi. Which neither I nor the Big Dog ever learned beyond a few basic phrases as neither of us have a talent for foreign languages.
I remember the family who took care of our ironing when we lived in Gurgaon. The mother was in charge of the business. Her husband worked in construction and we would sometimes see him driving around on his JCB – the Indian equivalent of a Case backhoe. A pretty good job for a man with little education and certainly a step up from having to drive a rickshaw.
The press walla lady’s children helped with the ironing business and her daughter also taught school there for younger children. The mother did not speak English, but her children spoke it well enough to communicate basic needs. For very few rupees you could get a ton of ironing completed — and delivered to your door — in a couple of days. They filled their iron with hot coals and pressed away. And they were masters of ironing. Our clothes were never so wrinkle-free.
I remember them fondly and hope their lives are happy and prosperous.
“India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” ― Shashi Tharoor