The Mumbai Laundry

I literally dragged myself out of bed at 4am to reach this place (well the shoot was scheduled at 6.30am -7 am). The sight fromt the bridge over the ghat is spectacular. Lines after lines full of the same colored clothes hanging there. But that all changes as soon as you enter the ghat. I was feeling a tinge of nausea as I entered the ghat. The smell of caustic soda lingered all over and took me some time to get accustomed to it.

Washing activities were already in full swing at 7am, dhobis were busy trashing the clothes against the flogging stones. I rarely saw them use a brush except the whites and the light colored lots. The laundries are called ghats row upon row of concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging stone Every day at the break of dawn thousands of bundles of dirty linen from all over the city: hospitals, hotels, household, shops, parlors and where not is brought in here where the clothes are soaked in sudsy water, thrashed on the flogging stones, then tossed into huge vats of boiling starch, spun in desi dryers and hung out to dry. Next they are ironed and piled into neat bundles all this for a small fee. The clothes are tracked using tags with unique code system written with special black ink which does not get washed away.

The dhobi’s work collectively and have their union group. This is mostly a family business for many which have been passed from one generation to the other since decades. I am not sure of the business details but it’s seemed that it’s pretty much impossible for a new comer to penetrate into this business easily. The washer men are particular that no room for outsiders and to keep this as a monopolized career options for the few.

Some 35+ shutterbugs go clicking inside the ghat and the locals are amused about the paparazzi attention they are getting. They are used to having tourists shoving the camera at their face but they still are not able to comprehend the reason of this attraction.

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