Patna has grown from a simple city to almost a metro. With the rise in population, new buildings, more cars, more offices and shopping complexes, life has also become very fast and complicated. In the shadow of the high rise apartments, you may see a man and his thela or moving cart. On this cart is a mountain of washed clothes. The man is busy ironing. Let me introduce you to some of these ‘press men’ of Patna who do the job of ‘pressing’ clothes for those hard pressed for time.
54-year-old Anil Raja has ‘shop’ made up of a rough table or chowki , and he is ironing clothes near Udyaan hospital along Boring Road Patna. He has studied up to the 7th standard in a ‘Sarkari school’. Being from a washerman’s family, he decided to do the job of ironing, and he has been working at his trade for almost 35 years.
Anil says that he earns Rs 100-150 a day. He mentioned that a few years ago, he used to earn Rs 500-600 per day, as there were families, school and college students, and office working people living near his shop. Now, most of these houses are gone, fully transformed into offices and showrooms. So there are fewer clients. Family and office people were the regular customers. He works from 11.30 am to till 8 pm. He almost works in all the weather conditions: summer, winter, and the rainy season. He faces some problems during the rainy season, because he works under the open sky.
He says that as a father of two children it is very difficult to maintain his finances. His daughter studies in a government school and he wants that his daughter do higher studies and get a government job. His elder son also helps the family financially, as he is an auto-driver.
Another’ city presser’ has a name that sounds like a Gangster. Named DK Raja, this 45-year-old man lives near Bataganj in Digha. He goes from house to house to collect clothes for ironing and he earns up to Rs 200 per day. His wife also helps him. She washes clothes and he presses them. Together they work and collect a certain amount for their livelihood “Our customers are hostel boys girls, bachelors, single men and families,” says Raja.
He has been an ironing man for 15 years. His elder daughter works as a cook and earns up to Rs 2000 per month, and the youngest apart from studies in school also teaches primary school children and somehow she earns also Rs 1000 per month.
Raja confesses that he had a drinking habit. “When I would drink, I was not serious about my work. I would go to my clients for collecting clothes only twice or thrice a week and I used to spend almost all the money on liquor'” he says. He began losing his customers and had family problems. “I have quit drinking now.”
He has changed totally. His dream is to be able to give proper education to his daughters and to see them married in a good family.
Nihal Kumar Dutta