A Visit to Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat

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Bollywood can make a star out of anything. Ever since the release of Indian movie with the same name, ‘Dhobi Ghat’ has become an increasingly popular sight to see.

Tucked away amid the noise of Mahalaxmi Station, there is an open-air laundromat where your camera can take various tales in the soap suds.

Moving further downwards and into Dhobi Ghat, the alluring smell of detergent greets us 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 have no hassle in front of outsiders in cleaning 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 process of an unusual vocation that functions with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine and wonder at its remarkable organization.

But for the dhobis at Mumbai’s Dhobi Ghat, all this is part of work.