Hop onto a plane in Houston and travel 24 hours, change the time zone to go backwards and you’re in Delhi, India at a very unusual time of the morning. (2.00 am) but with a gathering of spirits in immigration, lines and lines of tired people from all walks of life, you finally do get to you hotel at 4.00 am.
So you sleep a little and feel you are invincible because you slept 4 hours. I knew I wasn’t really in the best frame of mind because I was not happy with the state of my room in the light of day, or the fact that we were placed at a very small untidy table for breakfast. This one’s off the list for me.
That’s what travel does to you at times. Irrationality strikes and you become a bit crabby. However, I chided myself for my less than satisfactory understanding and faced the day with great optimism.
Time to explore, time to look at the Textiles that play such a big part in our lives.
It was very high!!!!
Then a short walk to Dhobi Ghat, not the spectacular facility that we see in photos from Mumbai, but still a fascinating place and not generally on the tourist track.
Almost hidden and unnoticed by people, the biggest dhobi ghat in Delhi is located in Connaught Place at the otherwise quiet and serene Hailey Lane. Families of 60 washermen, try to sustain themselves by washing and ironing clothes from dawn to dusk.
In the absence of a river, the ghat has to make do with bore well water, chilamchis (cement tubs) and tanks or hauds. Each washer man operates on his own and buys his machines and chemicals by taking loans. You can always find these men at the ghat, scrubbing and washing clothes and later running around to deliver their clothes on time.
The washermen at Hailey Lane usually work with hospitals and hotels that pay them around Rs 2 to Rs 3 per cloth.
The washermen at the Devi Sadan Ghat feel that washing machines cannot compete with them in terms of the quality of the work. “The primary reason behind skin infections is washing clothes at home. Here at the ghat, we wash clothes in boiling water, use disinfectants and black soap to ensure your clothes are as good as new. Yet, no one values us and people get fooled by the fragrances of fancy detergents and fall prey to deadly diseases,” says Rahul, a young washerman.
It’s back breaking work, all I have to do is to load my machine and press a button. However, it’s a generational career and supports many families who continue the tradition. I greatly admire the tenacity and generosity of these families.
We watched as two men worked in time and rhythm to fold the clothes. It was wonderful to watch, but I was a little slow in obtaining video, the photo doesn’t do it justice.
The women do the ironing, and I wonder if you would iron with one of these. That’s a coal iron folks, you can see the fire just under the coal.