Jennifer Tyburczy © 2011 sehba_sarwar. All rights reserved.

9:40 PM

A memory from Karachi.

Location: 2222 Truxillo, Living Room
Performer: Jennifer Tyburczy

A memory from Karachi.

1988. She worked at our house every day for over a decade. Her job was the care and keeping of our clothes. Her mid morning arrival began with a ceremonious preparation of tasks to be done. Right after her tea, and before anything else, Booa stuffed a beautifully wrapped little parcel into the back corner of her left cheek. The expertly pleated leaf was a slow release parcellette of tobacco joy that flooded her mouth and then her head as she begun mixing her starch and heating her iron.

First she lay down several layers of bedding to create a tightly tucked pad on which she’d flatten out her clothes. The ten pound iron was then plugged in for a good preheat. A bowl of water with a washcloth that she used to moisten the fabric was placed next to the ironing bed. As the iron heated up, a pasty mixture of starch plus a secret sparkly ingredient was dissolved laboriously into a bucket of steaming water with her own hands so as to avoid the slightest clumps. Tightly wound coils of white cotton dupattas lay on the tiled floor waiting to be submerged into this gelatinous soup. Booa had hands of leather. She whirled that hot starch over and over again to make certain it was smooth and even bodied, so that it would dry and stiffen our dupattas to just the crisp that was in vogue. And what dupattas we wore. White, long, crinkled; edged with beautiful cotton laces that made poetic scalloped borders, and shards of sparkle that she added so they’d glint in the sun.

After all this dunking and setting of dupattas, Booa’s favourite part began. She sat cross legged til her evening tea, happily and deftly ironing out every crease. For some pieces she used a stuffed cushion mitt that she stitched for herself, wedging it under the shoulder of a shirt or beneath the front of a pair of pants. She held up the fabric and ironed over her gloved hand. Some pieces were turned inside out to get the iron to glide as smoothly as her heart desired. No cuff ever had a line and no pleat ever lost its path. Her job was the care and keeping of our clothes