It's a hot afternoon, the kind every one would want to slip out of as soon as possible. But that's not a choice for Manikumar. Thankfully for him, these are winter days but still he has to deal with high temperatures. The 25-year-old works a coal-powered iron at the kiosk he runs with his father and mother in Coconut Grove Layout in Horamavu. They are the only people visible outdoors on a lane full of apartments.
"By the end of day, the heat from the iron gets unbearable. The iron itself is three to four kilograms heavy. My father has done this for 20 long years. It has insulated him to the temparatures and troubles," says Mani.
A single concrete block room is their haven during the work day, while home is two kilometres away, in Vaishali Nagar.
Mani is the front desk of this family enterprise. "My parents can only speak Telugu. I joined in to set up shop here eight months ago to help them interact with customers," says the commerce graduate explaining the break he took from working in the accounts section of a local office.
But Mani has bigger dreams, especially now when his wife has gone back to their hometown of Kadri (in Andhra Pradesh) to deliver the couple's first child. "We would love to go back home (to Kadiri) once and for all. We used to be farmers. We cultivated rice, sunflower and coconut. But it hasn't rained in four years in the region. Loans have piled up; fortunately, the banks have been accommodating. Otherwise farming and running an ironing shop are good enough to sustain the family," says Mani.
On the fields, they would work for four days and rest the next three in a week. Here in this expanding suburb of growing opportunities in greater Bangalore, Mani and his father, Shivappa, must go through the grind for nearly 13 hours, standing at their work stations 7 am onwards each day, six days a week, resting only on Tuesdays.
Ironing 100 to 120 pieces of clothing a day, between the two of them, school days see a bigger pile to go through.
"We use anything from 100 to 200 kgs of coal a day. A kilo costs us `20. The electric iron seems to be a more economical choice but you just don't get that finish, except I am more sure not to burn a saree with it," says Mani.
He sheepishly admits he never reveals a burn. "My father never burns anything. I have and I don't say much when I do. Men's wear is easy, it's the sarees and other odd dresses I can't handle," says Mani.
The family has been shuttling between Bangalore and Kadiri for the past nine years, but, 2013, Mani says, has been particularly tough on him. "All I hope for in 2014 is that it rains."