Outside the hotel pointed to the open-air laundry on the Dhobi Ghat map of the city. With a slight smile he tells me he is patient, especially for the heavy traffic in Mumbai. In fact, after traveling just 1km we remain bottled; we continue at a walking pace and after about an hour, we arrive at the place. I am left on the side of an overpass and the driver beckons to me with his hand that the laundry is below and I can reach it through a flight of steps. I continue on foot, I approach a low wall and discover an extensive shanty town leaning on one side of a railway and closed off by walls. There is no main entrance, but side passages every 50m. Two men approach me and with a friendly attitude they offer to guide me, clearly paying. I barter the price a little and we settle on the 250 rupees (around 3 euro). Ok we can enter says one of them … be careful where you put your feet, for puddles, the internal streets are all muddy. In front of me I see chaos, a swarm of people from all sides; 14,000 live and work here … entire families. Long rows of concrete tanks are full of water and detergent. The “floodlights” remain washed for 10/12 hours in the detergent up to the knees to wash clothes by hand, they stop only for lunch. There are no distinctions between men and women over who should do what. They wash, smash clothes on cement plates to remove water, some use small electric dryers and finally the clothes are spread on those hundreds of meters of wires that invade the village like a huge web. Other mounds of cloths invade every free centimeter. Restaurants, hotels, hospitals and private individuals use, they rely on this “archaic” washing system, probably because it is the cheapest. I walk at random through the narrow streets inside the slum, and I observe another aspect of life that runs in parallel. Women preparing food outside their small dwelling, children playing, men kneeling in prayer in the darkness of small rooms and in front of them there are statues adorned with necklaces, the scent of incense and lighted candles. Aspects of a daily life, perhaps normal, for them, strange to me, incomprehensible … absurd.
The Dhobi Ghat is located in the center of a large metropolis that has about 23 million inhabitants, called: Mumbai.