Dhobi Ghat… The World’s largest laundry! If it’s not something you’ve visited yet, then there’s a significant part of Mumbai’s wonderful culture, that you aren’t still exposed to!
With 140yrs of heritage, Dhobi Ghat is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. It is made up of rows of two-storey houses, and every house has a large stone wash up, permanently built outside, in the central wash area. There are washers, dyers, istri wallas (ironing), and reams and reams of clothes-line, lining the terrace of every home.
This was my first time into Dhobi Ghat… Actually, my first time into any ‘rural’ part of Mumbai… except the sides of railway stations and roadside slums. This shoot, we did almost a year ago… and it is what gave me the idea of doing this series ‘Inside Mumbai’. After this, I visited Kumbharwada in Dharavi, and while I loved it, it wasn’t as magical as Dhobi Ghat was!
As I walked through the small lanes to enter a large central area, with stone washers …. to see men busy beating and wringing large, wet pieces of cloth… we were met by curious, but welcoming smiles… and a lingering smell of cheap detergent. This place gets dirty laundry from hotels, hospitals and homes… and these people, work their magic with water and soap, to turn them back into fresh, fragrant folds of fabric!
Someone asked us what we were here for, and seeing the camera… they offered to let us go up onto the terrace of any of the homes, to get a better view.
We made our way up to one of the little homes where we could see some clothes hanging to dry… and as I stepped onto the terrace, I was met by a group of lovely ladies, having a little gossip session on the terrace, after having dried the first batch of clothes. They loved my saree, and told me how I was wearing it all wrong. 😀 Then they asked me to come sit with them so that they could be featured in the pictures as well. Hahaha…! And Sonalee (the photographer) and I, were more than happy to oblige.
They chatted with us, laughed with us and guided us through the different lanes… telling us about all the interesting spots we could take pictures at.
Once we were ready to leave the terrace, they decided to get back to work too, but mostly, we found them following us all over… helping us get permissions, (screaming at people “Arre hato kaka… unko photo lene do” / “Move Uncle, let them click pictures) and posing for us every once in a while. 😉
For a fashion blogger / content creator, this place offers such gorgeous little nooks and corners… so many stories and such warm smiles, that it ended up becoming one of my most favorite experiences ever! Before this day, I was always so afraid of venturing ‘Inside Mumbai’ into the alleys, and slums. Because, we’re all conditioned to believe that it’s unsafe or that we’re almost certainly going to get mugged. But this changed my perception.
We’re all human beings. Our circumstances are different… our privileges are different! They live in a slum, and yet, they own their homes… We live in swanky high-rise apartments, most of them rented. They’re poor and uneducated, but have the freedom of a daily afternoon nap… We’ve got the money, but are over-worked, over-stressed and sleep-deprived. We both look at each other, and think that the other lives a better life. We both look at each other, and realize what we ourselves desire.
Like everything in Mumbai, Dhobi Ghat is not just a place. It’s an experience. And while I saw many many international tourists visit the place that day, ironically, most Indians, have only seen glimpses of it in Bollywood movies. 🙂
Hope you Enjoyed reading this.
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