Dhobi Ghat: Mumbai’s human washing machines
Ever since last year's release of the Bollywood blockbuster of the same name, Dhobi Ghat's become an increasingly popular sight to see.
Tucked away amid the cacophony of Mahalaxmi Station, this open-air laundromat is the perfect place to take your camera and soak in the suds on a Saturday morning.
From the flyover that heads towards Saat Rasta, Dhobi Ghat looks like a neat concrete game of Tetris, with interlocking grids of wash pens of Rs 300 per month that are infused with scattered bundles of a day’s worth of the city’s laundry.
Upon venturing downwards and into the area, we were greeted by the alluring smell of detergent that creates an atmospheric bubble separating Dhobi Ghat from urban bustle; at least, superficially.
To enter costs Rs 100, but this grants an impromptu tour of the premises with a running commentary from the guide about the number of clothes washed daily and the monthly rent paid to the government to hire a wash pen.
The Mahalaxmi dhobis are friendly and do not find shutterbugs intrusive as they continue to clean clothes by slapping them against flogging stones, propelling water and soap suds into the air with rhythmic constancy.
Besides the old-fashioned method of washing, the Ghat is also equipped with automatic laundry machinery which remains on the sidelines because the dhobis in their wash pens are the real stars of the show.
They scrub, slap, soak, dry, drape and deliver every article of clothing in their vicinity with remarkable competence and calm and get them back to their owners by evening.
Visitors will marvel at the processes of an unusual vocation that functions with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine, and wonder at its remarkable organization.
But for the dhobis of Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat, it’s simply all in a day’s work.
Though iReporter Maya Sorabjee made this trip on her own, Reality Tours offers tours of Dhobi Ghat.
Reality Tours, 1/26, Akber House, Nowroji Fardonji Road, Opposite Laxmi Vilas Hotel, Colaba; +91 (0)98 2082 2253; realitytoursandtravel.com