Textiles, the story – of a journey to discover the fabric of everyday life.


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.

That’s what I love about exploring Delhi, you drive down a small lane, and behind a gate, walk up a few steps and suddenly you come upon an 11th century construction of historical significance. It wasn’t the real reason we were in the area, I wanted to see Delhi’s Dhobi Ghat which was just around the corner.
1132 CE, an Agrawal poet talked about this amazing water well or now known as a Baoli. It was indeed an imposing place, I think it goes down to around 180 feet. Used now as a meeting place for the young and hip, foreign visitors, pigeons and us!!!!
well 2



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.













4 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa Blevins says:

    Amazing photos! I have a couple of those irons but only as weights – can not imagine actually work with them.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. glendajean says:

    Your second photo took my breath away Pam, I could feel my heart rate increase just looking at it as a photo, what it must have been like to see it in real life must have been overwhelming so much history from so far back and still standing and been used??????? Throughly enjoyed wandering through the washing area with you, your photos gave me a true feeling of hard work and little reward, all that snow white linen!!!!!! I’ll give the iron a miss I like my steam iron to much LOL Cheers Glenda

  3. Pamela armas says:

    I have been to the Devi Sadan Ghat. I remember coming home from that trip and really,appreciating my washing machine and iron. India has a tendency to put us in our “places”and be grateful for all that we take for granite, Thanks again for sharing your journeynwith is.

    1. Pam Holland says:

      Indeed it does.

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