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 Home > Discover Mumbai > Sight Seeing > Mumbai > Mumbai's dirt gets cleaned

 Mumbai's dirt gets cleaned at Dhobi Ghat  

Around seven hundred and nine people are engaged in washing the dirty linen of Mumbai, at one of the world's biggest open laundry, that too at the heart of
Site of Cleanliness
Mumbai city. The great 'launderette', or the popularly known Dhobi Ghat, is near Mahalakshmi station, where men are busy with the laundry cleaning the dirt of Mumbaiites. Row upon row of concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging stone. The clothes are soaked in sudsy water, thrashed on the flogging stones, then tossed into huge vats of boiling starch and hung out to dry. Then they are ironed and piled into neat bundles.

The Tourist's favourite spotToday, for tourists, no trip to Bombay is complete without a visit to the laundry - the dhobi ghat. Everyone is anxious to know, what happens to their clothes, once given to the hotel staff. "This is one of the unique feature of Mumbai, the dhobi ghat," says Amana, one of the tourist from Russia. Almost all the travel agencies enlist Dhobi Ghat as one of the tourist stopover, Thomas Cook to SOTC. "We have not seen such a laundry, where clothes are washed under no roof, its open to viewers. Thats what surprises us the most," added Amana's tourist friend.

Giving a Thorough rinseAt Dhobi Ghat, it is a traditional laundryman, who will collect your dirty linen, wash it, and return it neatly pressed to your doorstep. All for a pittance. They charge just Rs.10 per piece of cloth. Isn't that really cheap compared to Rs.40, what we pay to the dry cleaners. The dry cleaners pays the washerman, a fixed amount for each cloth irrespective of the length and size, that is just Rs.3.

"All the clothes from the dry cleaner come to us only. We wash them in our traditional manner, with soda and chemicals. But when you go and collect it from them they charge for putting the things meticulously inside a packet," said Unni the washerman, who stays at the ghat with his wife and children. Almost all the dhobis and their families work together in what has always been a hereditary occupation, stay in small chawls, which have been constructed inside the ghat.

Washerman at workHere a particular block which are constructed to wash clothes are owned by a particular person, where only he or his employees can wash clothes. If one is employed then he receives a salary of Rs. 2500 a month. Work at Dhobi Ghat begins with the first twilight of the day, and depending on the number of clothes, which is in thousands, work continues for hours, at times going on till evening.

It is amazing to notice that the clothes after being cleansed, dried and ironed, returns to the right person. All the washerman follows the system of marking the clothes they pick from the customer. This marking avoids the clothes from changing hands. " At times, we do misplace clothes, for that we have to pay the penalty, to the customer," confied Rajan, the washerman from Andhra Pradesh. According to him most of the washerman are from Andhra and Bihar.

Mumbai is a place where the real estate prices is notoriously high, and these dhobis are occupying a cream area at the heart of the city. City's Municipal Corporation, charges them the bare minimum rent for space, water, and electricity. They are provided with continuous water supply for washing clothes. Every month the money for payment of the municipal bills are accumulated from all the owners of ghats and then handed over to the State Government.

Author's Name : Sharmistha Chakraborty
Photographer : Vinayak Prabhu

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