Sunday, May 11, 2008

Iron Man

His name is Kondaya. He's the guy who irons my dad's shirts, and pants, and whatever else that needs to be ironed. He also irons the clothes of the entire neighbourhood. He has a small shack set up by the side of the road, where he, his wife, and another man who he's hired (I'm not sure if this person is related to him or not, since most of these small businesses are family run), work from around 9 AM to 9 PM, if not longer. The little tables on which they iron their clothes are overloaded with bundles upon bundles of laundry, freshly washed, waiting to be touched by their smouldering hot irons. (Surprisingly, the tables are quite effective in giving the pants and shirts that extra special crease. So, not only are these cheap wooden tables cost-effective, but they're also high on quality too. Much better than an ironing board if you can believe it, which you won't, until you've seen it!)

Today--as I was picking up my dad's clothes, I noticed that Kondaya's wife had a packet of milk in her hand. I had smelt the aroma of tea coming from somewhere but couldn't figure out where they'd kept their cups, so I assumed that perhaps she was going to prepare it. That's not what she was doing--or at least not yet. She was holding the cool packet of 1/2 a litre milk to her face, and trying to dampen the sweat off her neck and forehead.

In the meantime, Kondaya was in the back searching for the plastic bag in which my father's clothes were kept. As I was taking it from his hand--I realized something that I'd almost forgotten since it'd been such a long time since I'd seen him--Kondaya has Elephantiasis. His right leg is probably five to six times the size of his left, and he walks with a slight shuffle. And yet, this man has no other choice but to stand on his own two feet, even at his age (he must be in his fifties) and iron other people's clothes, day in and day out, over and over again, for the past few years that I've been seeing him at least. He also doesn't wear any slippers, if memory serves me right, at least on the leg that's afflicted by the ailment.

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