When I was told earlier that there was a good chance that the clothes I’d arranged to have washed could have gone to Mumbai’s biggest open air laundry I was worried. I thought I would never see my pair of jeans and two shirts again. What I saw at a visit to the site today seemed nothing short of chaos. How on earth could they keep track of so many clothes?
Apparently 3,000 people work washing garments in the open air pools. Exposed to the blazing sunlight, it gets very hot down there so many just toil away in their shorts. They dip the clothes in the soap water and then wring them out by hand. The clothes are then hung on giant make-shift wooden clothes rails jutting out from the washers’ shack-like homes.
From some distance the different garments create a feast of colour on the eye. There are items from all over the city – green sheets from hospitals, a batch of jeans having their first wash before being sold and many more items for individuals. I’m assured that less than 1% of clothes are lost because everything is carefully tagged. Still, it wasn’t enough to convince me that my clothes would arrive back in one piece.
But just a few minutes ago I had a delivery at my hotel room. Of course, I can’t be sure that they were washed at the open air laundry, they could have just been put in some electric washing machine (increasingly popular gadgets in India which are unfortunately putting the future of open air laundries in doubt). Still, it’s a pretty impressive, manual system that leads you to question why parcel companies have to spend so much on electronic tracking devices. I’m just happy to have my laundry back.