The Toaster Iron

Down the alley behind the place I’ve been staying in Delhi, the neighborhood iron-wallahs -- the guys who iron your clothes -- ply their trade. They work in the open air, at a wooden table.

A coal-powered iron and bread warmer.

Fifteen years ago I happened to live in an apartment just a block or so from this alley, so I know that the iron-wallahs previously commanded a “better” location for their business. Back then, they were out on the main street, not tucked away in the alley. 

Things were different then in other ways, too. For example, in 2001 the neighborhood still had open sewers. And the iron-wallahs’ wooden table straddled that sewer. Today the open sewers are history, so the iron-wallahs have a better work situation no matter where they set up shop.

Still, some things don’t change. Here we are at the dawn of the 21st century, and yet these two men still share an iron that is heated by burning charcoal placed inside. I stopped by recently and the coal iron was doing double duty as lunchtime bread warmer.