Life is full of contrasts in Mumbai. Five star hotels line the roads along the waterfront and european style restaurants attract wealthy locals whilst a few streets away, some of the poorest people in the country live in slums and struggle for a living.
On a tour of the city, I was fascinated by the dhobi ghats of Mumbai, one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
These are the open air laundries of Mumbai where the dhobis or washerman spend their days washing the city’s hotel and hospital laundry. You will more than likely be taken to the Dhobi ghat near the Mahalaxmi train station where, standing on the bridge that goes over the rail lines, you have a good view of what’s happening.
This vast outdoor laundry, a rabbit warren of concrete washing pens and corrugated iron sheds, provides work for approximately two hundred families whose jobs are passed down from father to son.
After soaking the laundry in the soapy water in the pens, it is bashed against stones, put into vats of bleach or starch and finally hung out to dry.