There’s nothing more mundane than getting your clothes ironed, right? Depends. The way it’s often done in India can come as a big surprise to people from developed countries. Take, for instance, the press-walas (person who irons clothes) around the corner from where I live. They have their ‘shop’ set up outside right along the street, moving from one side to another as the day progresses, so that they can stay in the shade. And their irons are non-electric contraptions filled with hot coals. Hot coals? Seriously? Yup. Take a look.
One of the men is filling his iron with burning coals, on top of which he places some unlit coals.
The irons are extremely heavy—being actually made of iron—and they depend as much on their weight as the heat from the coals to iron the clothes. Surprisingly, coal-fired irons don’t seem to get as hot as electric ones. The press-walas will often allow their irons to rest on the clothes for half a minute or more while they talk to customers, and this doesn’t usually burn the clothes. I’m sure they sometimes do burn things if they get too distracted, but I haven’t seen them do it. Incidentally, don’t give synthetics to these guys. They usually do a great job with cotton or natural silk, but fabrics that require low temperatures are likely to be destroyed by the process.
In a country where electricity is often interrupted, this is a truly practical solution. Of course, this is probably how all irons were before someone came up with an electric one.
In Pondicherry, the going rate is rs4 per piece, except for big items like saris, which are more. Such a deal!