A day in the life of a Malayali “Veludhedan Lady”- Vilasini, Age 70, Ollur, Thrissur
She wakes up before the Sun is up. In a matter of one hour all her household chores get over. Age is not a barrier for her. She is active and vibrant – young 70. Without realizing that she is a piece of legend she lives on, cleaning soiled clothes and adding colour and cleanliness to many lives. Bom in a “Veluthedan” family, all what Vilasini knows is washing clothes and she makes her living with this.
Once daylight spreads, she starts washing clothes in the premises of her house making dull ones bright and white ones whiter. She fetches water from her well. She soaks all the clothes in washing soda and boils it in one huge vessel. She cleans the clothes scrubbing and beating one by one on the flat granite stone. Then she dips the washed clothes in ‘neelam’. Then she dries the clothes spreading them on bushes. By noon she finishes washing the clothes of at least four families and two temples and after this she quickly snatches her lunch. Once she gets them dried, she presses and folds them, with a perfection challenging any iron box in the world. She then puts them into different bundles with a smile of satisfaction. She then takes the next bundle of clothes collected from the nearby “Illams” and temples. She is very particular about her customers and collects only ‘mundu’ , ‘veshittis’ and other clothes from temples like ‘irezha vasthram’, uththareeyam.. etc. She does all her work alone . With her betel juice and a small bamboo stick she marks the clothes – a separate symbol for each house (:- /: >: =). She washes an average of 150 clothes per day. She says-“Today I get 10 rupees for each dress not like old times ‘quarter anas’”.
By then her granddaughter comes to meet her. She relaxes while listening to her granddaughter’s ‘college news’ with interest. She tells her granddaughter the daily dialogue “study and earn a job, but do learn our hereditary job, it’s not a job, it’s our duty”.
When it is dusk she walks around and ensures that the clothes out there are not lost. She doesn’t keep a written record, but she knows how many are out there. At 8 she watches her serials and takes her dinner. She says she will check her doors bolt and make sure it is locked before she switches off the lights.
Reported by: Varun Mohan