Long ago my dad would say, the 'Vannans' in Chennai are awesome. They know how to make your whites whiter, how to make starch starchier, how to iron iron-hard etc. Dad was, as I have mentioned earlier, a bit crazy about his clothes. The creases had to be just so. Every damn thing had to be ironed. Even towels (of course he would not touch the 'Turkey' towels with a barge pole), undies, banians, dhotis, handkerchiefs, napkins, bags - just about any piece of cloth lying around the home would find its way on to the iron stand (which was a big fat table with a small mosaic tile on it for keeping the I.B.).
So, of course I came here with stars in my eyes. I remembered struggling when I first moved back to India, to Mumbai. Back in the land of plenty (of soft toilet paper), I used to be responsible for laundry myself. Well, the husband person too. We collected our clothes in those big laundry baskets and come weekend trooped down to the laundromat with it. We scheduled our breakfast in the time it took for the washing. We collected quarters like there was a life after this one, really.
We are in India! Outsource immediately! naive FOBs that we were.
I hand washed our clothes for a few days.
The soap never seemed to get out.
I had a boy come pick up our clothes and wash and bring them back.
He stole three towels and one undie on day one.
We bought a washing machine. It did not fit in the back (yes, just like in Parul's book, go read it).
Our maid entered our lives.
She refused to wash anything till my mum came and covered her in riches (ergo, old saris) and convinced her.
We had a baby and the baby made liquidy potty everywhere she pleased (never on the couch though, god bless her, and the diaper industry).
We finally discovered Laundry Uncle. He is as close as I have come to an Idol. He took our clothes (only the shirts and kurtas that bleed colour, of course), and they came back like new. We have worn the same clothes for ever now because after they came back from laundry uncle, we did not have the heart to not wear them. We even stopped taking that bill or chit on which the number of clothes is mentioned (rather, he forbade us from taking it, after we lost it the fourth time), and he would keep the chit and keep track of our lives with care. However, he refused to move with family to Chennai.
Guru is a nice guy. He maintains an iron dabba shop just outside my home here. His problem is that he considers this his side business (as opposed to his full-time businesses of (a) Being sick (b) Going to Ooru (c) Navel gazing). Plus, his idea of ironing seems to be fold the clothes neatly and hand it back in exchange for Rs.10 (per).
Our home minister who comes in in the evenings and generally disapproves of my domestic skills, offered to iron my clothes. I agreed, thinking 'School Uniform' all the while. He cribbed about my iron box. Then he refused to iron the paavadai she wore last week (the Mallu off-white thing). He then proceeded to meticulously iron our dryfit t-shirts, once even before they were washed.
"Saravana Dry Cleaner"
The name boards assault me when I drive around. I contemplate starting a relationship with these guys. Give them my weekly dose of 10 shirts (or 5 shirts and 5 kurtas) etc. I imagine getting to a situation wherein I don't have to take away the little bill thing. I expect they will dry clean when they say dry clean. I think of my dad's words. I contemplate some more.
And meanwhile, today I sport a vaguely Kashmir-ish white kurta with embroidery on it. It looks like it was stylishly crinkled, for effect.