In our back lane, there is a dhobhi. It’s a 8 x 8 room, two tables for ironing on either side of the room. Every time when I went to give and take clothes, Kumar will be ironing the clothes, his wife either ironing on the other table or sitting on a plastic chair just outside the shop, husband and wife chit chatting, laughing, joking, having a word or two with the customers, it was a happy sight to see husband and wife bonding. They have a son and a daughter, both married, well qualified and earning well.
Soon the business grew. More work. More money. ‘I should hire someone to help me, I can’t iron so many clothes,’ Kumar often whined, smiling all the while.
Now when I go to the shop, Kumar is ironing the clothes with his back towards the hired help who is ironing on the other table, a heap of un ironed clothes on one side and a pile of ready ones on the other. The pile is going bigger but I also notice that Kumar rarely smiles now. ‘Amma doesn’t come to the shop these days?’ I ask Kumar referring to his wife.
‘Where is the place for three people in the shop? She must be somewhere,’ he replies, head bent over the table, hand working on the iron. Take back the ironed clothes, give the money and done, the man is too busy for a small chit chat with the customers.
I feel happy for the middle aged couple. They are making more money but I miss the smiles. I miss seeing husband wife together, sharing , laughing. The smiles have vanished in the pursuit of success. Does material success always bring happiness?