My Laundry

A friend from the Yog class introduced me to a dry cleaner without a name. I give only my expensive garments or sarees in the laundry for dry cleaning. The idea is that the colour should not run or fade as it happens in home wash and colours of lace or embroidery should not bleed. I find dry cleaning clothes an expensive proposition and I land up spending so much more for an already expensive garment, just to maintain it. I may not even want to repeat that garment after seven wears. Here the term expensive is relative. I have given sarees for dry cleaning for Rs. 150 to 599 per saree. This dry cleaners is a hole in the wall kind of a place. It has no sign board. The shop is unlike a shop and more like a wall of a godown. The friend is a  thorough Gujarati and I made her swear a couple of times that the Dry cleaner is reliable. We do not use the word laundry or laundromat often. It is almost always called the Dry Cleaner without the mandatory 's' at the end. 

In our College hostel, we used to give clothes to a very expensive dry cleaner on Peddar road. It was a joy to go to his store to look at all the unwashed and dry cleaned clothes belonging to rich people. The variety of textures and colours was unbelievable. Not that we wore drab clothes in the hostel, but our clothes were in neons, fluorescent, reds and blacks. This Dry Cleaner spoilt my skirt blouse set. My first decent skirt blouse and plain white with a little black edging and small black print like Warli near the seams. It must be for 600 rupees. That was my only formal pair of clothes. I learnt what is casual and formal wear only when I came to the hostel. For us in Jharia, we had 'ghar ka and bahar ka kapda' i.e. clothes we wore at home and outside. Home clothes were stitched by the Darji Jagdish Bhai who had a shop in our lane. Ten odd metres of fabric was bought by Mom in thaan, in some atrocious pink or orange flowers. All four sisters got two frocks each in that, one was sleeveless and one with short sleeves. All frocks were below knee level. The clothes we wore out for parties, weddings and dinners were designed by my Mom's friend in Bastacola. I loved those clothes. In Mumbai, to finally have clothes which I bought with my choice with the pocket money given to me, was blissful. And to have that lone set ruined by the dry cleaners was oh so sad. He charged Rs. 65 and ruined the skirt blouse set. I could never forgive him. I had worn it only once. I decided not to give clothes to Dry cleaners ever. 

In Oberoi, we were allowed to dry clean 4 sarees in a month, whereas we wore 26 sarees minimum in a month. Some months we had to attend an official event in the evening and landed up changing into a heavier Saree for the evening. I lost a couple of Sarees which I did not like and left in my hotel side desk for months. Oberoi laundry was a bliss because I used to hand wash all my Sarees in the hostel. I saw my first big laundry at the basement of Oberoi Hotels. Big machines, white boards with markers with notes on VIP garments, smell of chemicals, hangers with uniforms and piles of dirty clothes which were being sorted by the staff and oppressive heat.  

This 'Hole in the wall' laundry is cool and dark. One lone tube light along the dark walls made of stone. This place is soothing to the eye after the bright summer sunshine. No machines, no hangers full of nice clothes, just a Godrej almirah and files. There is a shield of Shivaji with a picture of Hanuman and symbol of Khalsa with swords. The desk is full of bill books and files. There are always a couple of Tempo travellers parked outside. Huge bundles of cloth are moved from inside to the truck or vice versa. The hole in the wall place washes all the linen sheets and blankets of certain trains. They have a contract and that is their fixed business. A few clothes that people like me, give is like loose change for them. The laundry charges minimum for clothes. It is same as what the Dhobi charges me at home. This March, the laundry has lost the railway contract. The white bedsheet bundles with blue lining of woven Indian railways is no where to be seen. I felt sad for the people working. I thought some of them will loose their jobs. The person who mans the reception, the inflow and outflow of cash and clothes, is worldly wise old man. His native place is Near Goa. Refused to give me the name of the village or may be he thought my Geography is weak. 

Strange, but whenever I want to write 'weak', I land up writing 'poor' or 'bad'. This is because of years of school teachers reprimanding me in a certain way. Weak was always treated as non competitive, poor marks or  bad behaviour. We need to look at what havoc the teachers are playing with our children, with their language and behaviour. 

I asked the laundryman, Now what? Now that you have lost the railway contract. He was unfazed by my direct question. He said, " Kuchh nahin hota, Business hai". They have lost the Government tender and it is no big deal as this is how business is. He was not criticising the officials or the process of tendering or anything. He was not even justifying. For him, it was another day at work and no insecurity. A couple of days later, I saw huge bundles of new cloth from the shops, which had come for bleaching. Then a few days later, I see new files in place of old ones. They have Vivanta by Taj written on them with marker pens. Business was back to usual. May be it was always there. 


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