When I explained where I wanted to go she looked at me so inquisitively I could almost hear her thoughts “laundry? of all things why laundry?” Momma Boom was a little worried, so she did what any good mother would do. She fed me lunch and asked me again if that’s where I wanted to go; yes, the bible, The Lonely Planet, highly recommends seeing Dohbi Ghat (the largest outdoor laundry facility). It says in the bible that there is a good vantage point from the train station across the street to observe the thousands of pieces of laundry that pass through the operation each day including; the workers who do all the washing, wringing and hanging.
The driver and I headed into the city, I could tell we were getting close because I could see the laundry being hung haphazardly on the rooftops, the sidewalks and on any clear space. Finally the driver stopped the car, got out and left me looking around at the huge bags of laundry, the large trucks, the lost chickens, the stray dogs and the BIG sign that read “Prohibited Area.” He came back with two young guys and motioned for me to get out of the car. Armed with my cameras I stepped over a curb and entered into another world. There were hundreds of people washing, ironing and doing all sorts of cleaning of every type of clothing. My driver didn’t speak English and the two guides spoke about two words between them; I had so many questions that I could hardly compose a photo let alone walk around without bumping into something or someone. I think I walked around for the next 7 minutes with my mouth hanging open because you can do that when it’s only seven minutes. Yes, my tour was over before I had a chance to open my eyes and we were led back to the car only to be asked for 800 rupees, which is 50 more rupees than I paid to enter the Taj Mahal. I laughed and said something to the effect of “you’ve got to be kidding”. Suddenly the non-english speaking boys spoke more than two words and said that the price was 800 because I took photos. My response was that if I was going to pay that much that I would like to go back in, when they said no – I gave them 300 ruppees ($10) and jumped in the car. As we drove off I realized that the bible said nothing about wandering around the facility, only about a vantage point across the street. I think I was luckily to have see the behind the scene action, even if it was only 7 minutes!
I spent the next few hours in the back seat of a car, the driver whizzed around the city pointing out what he felt where important landmarks while I dozed off. It was one of the hottest days on record for the month of February so the back seat of the air-conditioned car was the right place to be. Before I knew it we were back in the comfort of the Juhu suburbs; I was happy to know that my laundry was being done, by hand, at Booms house. If you’ve sent your laundry out in Mumbai chances are it passed through the Dohbi Ghat – I’m just saying…
I am stunned! How on earth do they keep it all straight? Love the colors, but the cleaniliness is highly questionable.