As seen in many travel and photography magazines, I knew I could not miss visiting Dhobi Ghaat when I was in Mumbai. Insisted to kick off our second day in Mumbai by experiencing an open air laundry, my friends gave in to my demand. We hailed two taxis at the corner of Shahid Bhagat Singh Road and cut a deal of Rs90 for each taxi.
The taxi drivers unmannerly stopped us one kilometre away from the dhobi ghaat and had us asking for direction to the Dhobi Ghaat from the locals.
Not long after, we spotted another tourists coming up from a staircase and underneath the over head bridge connected with the staircase, there was a huge compound full of clothes; scattered, piled, washed, dyed and hanged. Unique, seeing a place like the dhobi ghaat was as if my life was paused for few seconds just to absorb the uniqueness of the place with my five senses. Pungent urine smell was enough to bring me back to the reality.
Camera gear was on full standby mode to capture the best moment in the open air laundry. When we walked in, we were stopped by one of the washers who asked us to wait for the head of the washers. We were then informed that tourists were charged an entrance fee of Rs50 and Rs100, if entrance with a camera. We were told the money will be allocated to the washers’ fund. Apparently there are 10,000 washers in Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghaat. The place was huge! We saw men and women doing all the work related to laundry.
Although there were washing machines, the washers still pounded the clothes with stones. By then I had seen riverside laundry in Hampi, India and how an old man stood still holding a piece of clothes under the scorching sun to dry up the clothes.
Common sights were small-built men with obvious tighten muscles.
The washers were very friendly. They called me to take their photographs and in fact, asked me to go to the opposite side.
Seeing how hard their jobs were, a thought struck my mind at once. I was then at the verge of ever wanting to quit my air-conditioned-but-demanding-legalwork, complaining about my job at every single juncture. How would I be more grateful for my job if not because of the hardship and labour suffered by the washers just to bring food home.
While a sense of pitiness grew rapidly in me, I spotted never ending laughter and hearty smiles from the washers.
Now, how is money relative to the happiness scale?
The white clothes were whiter. The bright coloured clothes did not fade away. There must be a hidden secret behind the method employed by the washers to wash the clothes. Clothes were tagged to prevent loss of clothes. They are also classed according to colours and materials. Jeans would be washed together with other jeans. Sarees with sarees.
We were given a limited time to explore the open air laundry. Even that, it left huge impacts on me. A definite must visit place in India.