Mumbai being a unique city in more ways than one is common knowledge. The most attractive part of Mumbai is its infectious energy. The city is largely made up of immigrants and hence, the most important aspect of Mumbai is its people.
The citizens of this beautiful, chaotic melting pot have contributed to the many famous quirks of this city of dreams. One such quirky place, that at times gets neglected is, ‘The Dhobi Ghat’.
Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai is a 140+ year old open air laundromat. What is amazing is that nearly 500,000 clothes are washed here each day. It is said that clothes from across the city end up at the Dhobi Ghat, to be washed and ironed.
Most of these clothes come from the railways, hotels, hospitals, event management companies, catering companies, clubs and restaurants, apart from residential areas.
Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai has a very robust system in place. A line of Dhobis (Washermen) from across the city will collect the clothes and get them to Dhobi Ghat. Every piece of cloth is marked well to ensure nothing ever gets mixed up or lost in the process. 7,000 washermen then wash, flog, scrub, dry and iron these clothes. The washing takes place around designated washer pens made of concrete, followed by drying and ironing.
The hours here are long and gruelling, to say the least. While a visit to the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai is like watching a well orchestrated symphony, it is also much more that that. For starters, it provides an insight into the Dhobi community of Mumbai. 200 families living in poverty, thanklessly carrying on scraping the dirt of our clothes, with unquestionable dedication and incomparable efficiency. That’s just irrevocably exceptional.
Apart from washing, Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai is also the place where clothes are bleached and dyed. Old sarees and shirts are repurposed into merchandise for the second hand market.
The Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai is an intense experience but is also a lot of fun. While it is particularly checked out by international travelers, it also adds a lot of value to Indian travelers and the local Mumbai citizens. After all, it holds a world record in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the location which has the most people hand-washing clothes, at the same location.
Plan your visit to the Dhobi Ghat in a way that you actually get an insight into their day, and witness as much of the process as possible. Start the day early to witness the Dhobis washing cloths in the wash pen. Head down to the actual laundromat, where locals would be happy to oblige and take you on an informal tour of the Dhobi Ghat. What’s interesting is that the place is also home to 200 families. In the process, you are likely to understand the various stages your prized shirt would go through, before it makes its way to you, crisply ironed and ready for another use. Afternoons are usually a great time to capture pictures of clothes being put to dry.
While the experience is obviously great, it’s a visual delight for photographers. For the curious, you can literally walk into the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai during peak working hours and catch a glimpse into the world of the Dhobi community. Just the fact that you can experience this so easily is truly symbolic of Mumbai’s rugged hospitality.