They are husband and wife. They work together. Well, nothing unusual about a couple working together, only what S. Sivakumar and S. Sajitha do something unusual. They wash cars.
Their joint effort makes them wash 32 cars in four hours, which otherwise would not have been possible for Sivakumar to do individually.
Forty-one year old Sivakumar took up washing cars as part-time work eight years ago. His prime work was, however, painting buildings. Individually, he was washing around 15 cars in four hours.
Sajitha came into the picture four-and-a half years ago when Sivakumar sprained his wrist. As per doctor’s orders he was not to rotate his wrist for a month. Unable to squeeze the wet cloth while cleaning the car he was on the lookout for a helper, but in vain. It was then that Sajitha offered to help and since then there has been no looking back.
The couple found their team worked well and so, even after Sivakumar recovered, they continued washing cars together. With speed and efficiency they realised they were able to clean more cars and so today they are comfortable cleaning 32 cars. Sajitha says they can do up to even 40 in that time.
The success of this team work has made Sivakumar reverse his job profile. Now washing cars is his main work and the painting work has become part-time. The revenue he gets from washing cars is double that of what he gets from painting because he has reduced his working hours there.
But this success story has been made possible only through many sacrifices and of course hard work. With the exception of Sundays, the couple wakes up very early everyday to travel to the gated community where they start washing cars at 5.30 a.m. While Sajitha cleans the body of the car, Sivakumar takes care of the wheels and the top. It is a little after 9.30 a.m. when they leave for home. After this, Sivakumar leaves for his painting job whenever he gets a contract and Sajitha gets on with her household work.
She recollects how when she started washing cars her elder son was four years old and younger was only a year old. Thanks to her mother-in-law, her children are taken care of in the mornings. Sivakumar’s sister-in-law, who has come into the family recently, joins her mother-in-law in getting both the children ready for school. As there is an unspoken understanding between the husband and wife about washing a car, there is also one between the women at home. While the two women at home take care of the breakfast and lunch, Sajitha cooks the dinner and puts the children to sleep after their tuitions.
Though it looks like only a four-hour job, the couple says that they cannot even take a minute break as in an eight-hour job. Rain or shine or cold weather, they have to start work at the appointed time. The constant handling of water shows on the hands and feet of Sajitha. There are also cold attacks the couple suffers from. Besides these, Sajitha also bears the guilt that she is not able to get her children ready for school. She also gets to hear snide remarks people make to her husband about him involving her in “this kind of a job”.
Sivakumar, however, is undaunted. He believes in the dignity of labour and enjoys the togetherness he shares with his wife that also brings in additional income to the family.