Sunday, January 2, 2011

No washing

One of the city buses to school had a route that took it from the very British 'Sterling Road' bus-stop to the rather Anglo-Indian sounding 'Dobby Kana', which was its next halt. Having to get down at the former (if I wanted to go to school, that is), the latter was an enduring mystery. 'Kana' sounded rather like 'khana' (Hindi for 'food') that I used to imagine a huge crowd of dhobis (washermen) sitting down for lunch or something.

Although I've heard tell of how crowded the 'Dobby kana' at Chetpet used to be, I never had a chance to see it. For the Chetpet laundry had shut down even by the early '70s and today, even the bus-stop is called something else. Even the recent movie 'Madrasapattinam', with its washerman hero, seems to be set in the dhobi ghat of Guindy, rather than Chetpet. Even that has disappeared, now.

The last outpost of the Madras washerman seems to be this enclosed area at Pallavaram. I was told that the mornings are when it is a buzz of activity, with the wet clothes swishing through the air in arcs to have the dirt beaten out of them, wrung and then hung out to dry. In the evening, it is almost completely deserted; looks like the few people inside are those washing their own clothes!



Hi Shantaram,

Wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2011!!!

Couple of things...there seems to be something written on the slab that is half covered in the picture...any idea what it said?

And secondly, there is a Dhobikhana still in existence in Mylapore...near the Vivekananda fact its quite common to see donkeys being tied opposite the college.

Shantaram said...

@Karthik: Thank you - and wishing for a great time in 2011 to you as well! The stone is a list of people at the inauguration of this space, dating back about 10 years or so.... I know that there is a lot of washing going on along Musiri Subramaniya Iyer Street... didn't realize there is such a dhobikhana there as well!

Ram N said...

willkommen ....