In the traditional Indian culture, a Dhobi is a laundryman who collects dirty linens from homes and returns them washed and neatly pressed from open-air laundromats known as Ghats, a subset of the Indian service industry that traces its roots back hundreds of years.
Dhobi ghat has its own story with a beguiling atmosphere and livelihood spanning generations. To delve deeper into this world, the work has been documented in three different cities (Mumbai, Ahmedabad & Calicut).
Somewhere in the tangled mess of winding streets that make up India’s largest metropolitan city is a place known as the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, the largest unmechanized laundry facility and washerman colony in the world. I went there to obtain the true essence of what people call, The Mumbaikar Dhobis.
Dhobi Ghat has been home to many people. They have worked and lived there, for ages, generations after generations, passing on the tradition. The visuals of striking white linen hung close over squalid streets, are both contrasting and ironic. It does not stop there, the neatly pressed stack of clothes sits close to the unkempt, messy surroundings.
The staunch iron sits in one corner, bestowed with the tumultuous task of soothing the creases, making them presentable, while being placed within the confines of a blemished corner, just at the brink of being reduced to pieces. The narration of this visual resonates hard with the ethos of the place.
Isn't it strange, how the clothes of people from all walks of life have been treated just the same, yet the doer has been always treated differently? The world ceases to acknowledge the contribution.
Once upon a time, there used to be rows of dhobis armed with batons, who'd strike them over clothes on stoned surfaces at tandem. The rhythm was indeed an alluring sight.
We can find them in each and every city in this country, but the sad truth is that they are getting fewer and fewer day by day. One can feel the slumber in the air, the streets which one spoke of bustling vibe are now being haunted by silence and solitude.
The dwindling livelihood forces one to think if the legacy is washed and faded while being beaten by the tactics of the modern world.