Sunday, 9 February 2014


If there was something which didn’t surprise me about India when I got there it’s the way they wash clothes. What did surprise me was how spotlessly clean they are! I’d already seen it on television and I’d also read about it. Once I saw a documentary about Dhobi Ghat, which is a huge outdoor ‘laundromat’ in Mumbai. Each day it is estimated that a half million pieces of clothing are washed, dried and ironed there. (Knowing Indians I can imagine how many pieces are missing and how probable it is that you get someone else’s laundry back). This was not the documentary I saw, but you can watch this one to get the idea:

Now I’m living in the Dominican Republic and wash my clothes by hand; I don’t use a washing machine, even though I have one. I wouldn’t call it a “washing machine” since it doesn’t wash, but… The fact is that in India I got used to doing the laundry by hand, and that is the way I continued doing it when I went back to Spain and the way I do it here. I think it has many advantages: you use less water and detergent, you don’t have to wait until you get a load of dirty clothes, you save electricity,… It also has some disadvantages: if you do it in the river, the detergent pollutes it (or maybe it disinfects it!), it’s time consuming,…


On my first day in Vijayawada I saw a group of women washing clothes on the river bed. They were literally giving a beating to the clothes. I guess that’s the way!

I was privileged because I could have someone do the job. Although I like to do my things myself, for me it was an everyday  drudgery  I could avoid, so I gave my clothes to the male dhobi who came once a week  (or whenever he fancied). The clothes were beaten clean, hung to dry and pressed to crisp perfection. But the dhobi who did it loved my clothes and he used to ‘divert’ some pieces every time. On being told he gave some of them back, but some remained missing. Having arrived with not many clothes, I calculated that in a month or so I would have to go around naked! So, I had to stop giving the dhobi my clothes!

At the very beginning there was nothing easy or efficient about doing the laundry by hand for me, but little by little I think I got better. Not having a river nearby or 24-hour running water makes it a little more complicated. But it’s just a matter of practice. Now I don’t have the style Indians have, but my clothes are pretty clean! I am more pitiful and I don’t give them such a hard time, though!

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