The lines of clothes hanging on the ropes, in straight lines, greeted Shambhu, who was carrying a huge pile himself. The ghats looked unique; almost surreal with the view. The clothes that Shambhu’s fellow dhobi-mates had already washed and hung to dry in the sun, seemed never-ending and stretched till far away in the horizon. The weather was warm, with the sun gleaming from right above the head and the clouds scant. The gentle breeze was somewhat a little relief though, throwing a respite to what lay ahead ~ a tedious day. Shambhu positioned himself before the huge slab of rock his favourite where he slapped those clothes everyday, ensuring that all the dirt and grime vanished, from every knitted thread of the fabric ~ till they shone in sparkling-white. His customers loved his work. And as a result, his little laundry shop was doing roaring business, giving a competition really to all the rest, in the dhobi-community. Every morning Shambhu came to the ghats, with the ever-growing pile of clothes that he collected the previous day or left over by the customers. He hoped to upgrade his laundry service soon and install some washing machines, as he had seen in some advertisements; machines that would do all the hard work! With him, only having to add in the detergent Ariel. Well, he’d have to work hard till that day came, Shambhu thought; such things came with their roaring expenses as well.
Shambhu stood in his usual position, legs bit apart and started doing the rounds of the clothes, one by one. In a rhythmic manner almost, he got started till every piece of cloth faced their turn. By noon, tired, he stopped a while for the dabba of lunch that he carried, packed neatly by his wife Shanti. Sometimes, during these lunch-hours, his little assistant would be bringing him some more of the clothes, gathered in the morning. So, with the lunch quickly done, Shambhu would then finish with the rest of the clothes. He’d wash the same with water that flowed through the river by the ghats and hang them to dry ~ thus joining in those long never-ending lines of ropes.
Till the clothes dried, Shambhu sometimes chatted or played cards with the other dhobis; or sometimes just took a small nap under the trees. Very rarely he’d come home or go to the shop, leaving the clothes behind. He was very protective of them and would stay guard till they dried. Only when they dried, he’d then carefully take them down, fold in a pile and head home. This was his daily routine.
Shambhu returned home from the dhobi-ghat as usual, carrying the arm loads of clothes he had washed and dried earlier in the day, on the ghats. Once he reached home, tired, he dropped the bundle that he was carrying on one side; flung his kurta and pyjamas in the bathroom and slopped down in a small rickety chair; and waited eagerly for his evening tea and snacks. Shanti brought his tea in no time, and frowned at the carelessly flung clothes. Before she could ask anything, Shambhu said, “Mere kapde dho dena. Kal ke liye chahiye ( wash my clothes, I’ll need them tomorrow )."
Yes, he may wash thousand people’s clothes whole day in the ghats, but at home, he was the king. It was his wife’s duty to wash his! Well, that's the normal scene in India. No matter what job a man does - at home, woman has to do the laundry!