Every generation has its own inventions to pass on to the next which undergoes changes for the better. But their roots are most often forgotten or still worse, unknown to many of us down the years as they are buried under periodical revolution. One such gadget which makes me nostalgic is the charcoal
iron box used to press clothes many years ago.
Back then in India, it was a common sight to see a family running ironing business from a tiny shack or a push cart parked in the corner of residential streets. One could just drop off a pile of washed, wrinkled clothes and be assured that he will receive a neat stack of freshly pressed clothes for a nominal fee. It was a nice sight to see a couple working together, the woman refilling a huge iron bowl with hot coal while the husband lifting the modest yet heavy-duty iron box and running it over all kinds of fabric, some of which they might not even dream of owning some day.
The charcoal iron box is made of iron with a wooden handle and has vents on the lower part of the box . It is loaded with hot coals and the lid shut and that’s all there is to it – no settings, no electricity required. This was a life-saver in a place where untimely power-cut was the call of the day. I remember setting out my clothes to iron and then losing my cool when the electricity was cut off, and in a panic, running down the street to the iron-man and begging him to somehow press my clothes, so I don’t get late to work. The poor guy, would manage to get it done in spite of the huge pile of clothes on his ironing table.
Well, in recognition of this almost vintage ironing contraption, I created the ceramic iron box seen in both the pictures on this post which won the President’s Award at the Ohlone Art Show 2016
In winning this award, a true tribute has gone towards the old fashioned pressing days! Kudos, not only to the press box but also to all those iron-men and their families who made their meek livelihood pressing clothes of people from all walks of life.
Though this kind of ironing business is declining in India, you could still occasionally see an iron wallah down a street. If you see him, take a moment to stop by and bless him with a kind word or a cup of tea.