Dharavi dhobighat (laundry tank) is one of those everyday miracles
of a practical nature that India seems to excel in producing, and
which are far less susceptible of explanation than any ropetrick.
A small tank collecting water from the gutters running along the railway
tracks provides a livelihood to a small community of Gujurati dhobiwalas
(laundrymen), who wash the clothes, sheets and blankets of the local
community. The water is black and filthy, often with garbage floating
in it, the clothes are boiled in oildrums over fires stoked with rubber
tyres and then beaten and scrubbed on dirty stones and laid out to
dry on the railway tracks - and yet the end result is starched, clean
clothes. And these clothes, which have all been washed together, must
then be returned to their correct owners. Probably everyone has tried
to decipher the little marks the dhobis make on your clothes; what
is more remarkable is that even though your clothes accumulate a profusion
of these marks, they never seem to get confused.
In the monsoon, of course, the whole procedure becomes even more complex
and fraught. Wait until it rains just after weve put the
clothes out to dry on the tracks - then youll see us run!
In August 2000 it rained heavily nearly every day, and there was indeed
a lot of running.