Friday, January 24, 2014

The Tale of Dry Cleaned Jacket!

After almost a year of living here, I finally felt the need for a dry cleaner- my black wool coat was a mess. So, I asked a friend for a nearby dry cleaner. Her response was cryptic- she asked what I wanted cleaned. When I told her it was a coat, she said "Ok, for your coat you can go to the dry cleaner opposite Sacred Heart. Don't go to him for sarees." I had never heard of such super specialization in dry cleaning but I didn't probe. Maybe I should have.

So the next day, I went looking for the dry cleaner who was OK for coats. It was a small hole-in-the-wall shop right opposite the most famous school in our area. There, I was greeted by a middle-aged man who smiled and bowed as I approached. His smile stayed put as I showed him my coat and asked for it to be dry-cleaned. This is how the conversation went.

Me: When can I pick it up?
Man (smiling): When do you want it?
Me: When can you have it ready?
Man (smiling): Tomorrow
Me: Tomorrow morning?
Man (smiling): Tomorrow evening.
Both smiled at each other.
Me: Will you give me some receipt?
Man (smiling even more): Nahin ji, koi zaroorat nahin. (There's no need for that)
Me (feeling uncertain): How much will it cost me?
Man (smiling ear to ear): Koi na. Le lenge ji. (No problem. We'll take what's right.)
Me (totally flummoxed, but disarmed by all that smiling): Ok, thank you.

I went back for the coat two days later and found a little girl at the shop. When I asked her for her father, she asked me to take a seat on a bench and wait for 10 minutes while her father finished his breakfast. I had stuff to do, so I left. I returned the next day and the same man greeted me with an even bigger smile and a reproach that I was late- "Kab se tayyar hai ji, tussi aye nahin". He took out my coat from a cupboard and quickly wrapped it in newspaper (no plastic bags in HP) and handed to me. I made the payment and came back home.

A couple of days later, on a bitterly cold morning, I took out my coat from the newspaper wrapping with the intent of wearing it and was shocked to see that it was no coat but a kind of poncho. I had been given someone's else's clothing! I went down to mom's room to tell her but could not- I was laughing so hard. When I finally managed to tell her, she said that the same shop had mixed up her jacket too just last week, but she had noticed it right there and got her jacket back.

So, I went back to the shop. This time I found a tough-looking woman at the counter. When I told her what had happened, she said "Oh, this belongs to an Angrez (foreigner). She had come for this shawl yesterday and I searched and searched and finally told her we didn't have it. When she insisted that it was in my shop, I told her that was impossible but why not she checks thoroughly at home while I do the same in my shop"! Feeling total empathy for the Angrez, I asked what  her reaction to that proposed solution was. The lady said "O maan gayi ji"! (She agreed!)

Now, came operation Search-for-this-non-Angrez's-Coat. A lot of hangers were moved here and there, a lot of jackets were brought to me, and after a lot of "Is this your coat?" "Is that your coat?", she finally found my coat and gave it to me.

This time I checked and made sure it was indeed my coat before it was wrapped in a newspaper. As a parting advice, I told the lady to start tagging clothes and giving out receipts. To that she said "It is not needed. I never make a mistake. I was sick so my husband took over the shop for a few days. It's he who creates these problems. You see, he is not right in his head."!!!


  1. Still they refused to tag and give a receipt.!!!!. Another fact about Himachal is that the heavens may come down but for them it is koi baat nahin.

  2. Puja - I am surprised you get your clothes dry-cleaned in the mountains...have you forgotten the story of two brothers who opened a shack, called it 'Anand Drycleaners' (with a handy bottle of white petrol for after effects) ....they washed all clothes including 3 piece suits in the river, which shrank and the two were finally chased away by the town folks !!! Way back in the 50s they gave receipts.....maybe J&K had a different culture as compared to HP :)

  3. My God ! You are lucky to get your coat back.