Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This is the Way We Wash our Clothes, Early in the Morning

Listening to: Jesse’s Girl – Rick Springfield
Mood: Coffee.

Washing clothes is a little different for me in India. For the first time ever, the G family actually owns its own washing machine, rather than just using one from a landlord or funding a laundry mat. The machine is an LG and I would marry it if only it would wash dishes too. That’s right people, mechanical polygamy.

 I have finally gotten the idea of doing smaller loads every day or two rather than doing a mountain every 2 weeks. Go ahead mom, I’ll wait while you gloat and say I told you so! It takes me a while for common sense suggestions to sink in. The inertias, I am attached to it. Anyhow, we use our washing machine on a very regular basis.

However, some of my clothes are beyond wimpy and require coddling. My salwar Kameeze, my tunics from Fab India (because I really want them to last for a while) and my kids Indian clothes all have to be washed by hand. I know I have the tendency to Martha Stewart bomb the house when I am having company, but let me tell you people, I am not cut out for life without machines. If I were a pioneer woman, my Dutch/Viking genes would probably save me from cholera, but would do nothing to prevent me from dying of exposure when I got too lazy to hand wash my clothes for the 10 bazillionth time.

This morning, I decided the growing mountain of disgruntled, dirty clothing just couldn’t wait to be washed. My housekeeper offered to do this for me once (because girl is hustling and always looking for more ways to earn the rupees), but she seems to have a serious delusion about doing more work than she actually has time for. Which is totally not a big deal. This does however make me do the laundry early in the morning before she comes to our house; otherwise she bothers me to do it. Something about me doing any work triggers some guilt response from her.

So I busted out my gaucho pants (because there are few things on earth I hate more than having wet jean hems!!) and trusty plastic buckets, headed to the shower and got to work. One capful of handwash detergent to one bucket of water. Insert one piece of clothing at a time (because these clothes do not like soaking) and wet thoroughly. Crouch down and scrub away. The best way I’ve found is to just rub the cloth against itself. Very bad for the back and knees to crouch the whole time, but it beats bending over and standing up 80 times.  Rinse under the tap, which has by now switched randomly from cold water (the non-fabric-bleedy type) to warm water, which does turn the fabric all bleedy.

I haven’t quite got a handle on how the water in India works. During the winter, the water is ice cold and stays that way unless you heat up the geezer for an ungodly amount of time, and then returns to cold after you have used up the 10 available minutes of nice hot water. During the summer, if you only turn on the cold tap, the water will come out actually cold for 1 bucket of water. After which, it will turn a warm-ish temp for no reason. We often don’t use the geezer during the summer, because if the water is going to come out decently warm, why spend the money on heating the water anyways? Besides, who wants a hot shower when it’s hot and sweaty outside?? Not this Dutch girl. I like me some cold showers in the summer.

Anyhow, after thorough rinsing in which you worry that you will have a non-colored shirt when you’re done, throw into another empty bucket. When you have finished all the clothes, or filled the bucket, walk very, very slowly and carefully (think 80 year old type walking) across the stone tile floor so you don’t fall and break multiple bones because your feet are still wet and snails couldn’t even make this more slippery. Seriously, it’s dangerous.

Hang your clothes on very small, thin strings stretched out across your porch, cursing about why your husband won’t just buy you a clothes rack already. Re-tie 3 of the strings that decide they just aren’t feeling like supporting clothes today. Fuss that the strings are so stretched out your clothes rest against the porch that is covered in dust and pigeon detritus, in spite of your best efforts to clean it every day and chase those little bastards off. Worry that it will be windy again today and that you will have to chase your clothes all over the compound after they blow off of your 7th floor porch. End up cursing the monsoon rains and hail that soak your clothes when they were 90% dry. Swear that you will never again hand wash the clothes.

There you are people, that is how laundry day is at our house. I’m having some serious white picket fence fantasies about clothes lines and washing machines in the US right now.



  1. I'm embarrassed to say that everything got out of control with my beach trip - and now I don't remember where I asked that question about your blogs... so have not seen your answer.

    In any case, I'm following you here because this post was just too familiar for me to pass up! You definitely need a clothes rack lol... or at least wires instead of string so that you don't have to keep retying.

    Do you not have a laundry service there? I don't have a washing machine - but I have a dobhi who washes and irons my clothes for me.

    For clothes that I wash myself - I usually soak them overnight so that the main job is done for me.

    Fun to see you mentioning Fab India by the way :-)

  2. Becky, I've given you a blog award ;-) Stop by to pick it up.

  3. Lady in Red - No problems dear. I'm about to disappear down to Sri Lanka for a week, so I'm not sure if anyone will hear anything from me for a while. Hopefully they will.

    I am usually found here or here.

    We did take a wooden clothes rack with us from the US, but with 2 kids, I feel like I do a metric ton of laundry every single darn day. That small wooden rack just can't keep up. I have been eyeing my neighbor's hanging rack since we moved in 6 months ago, but motivating a husband to do anything laundry related is usually not very successful around here.

    We don't have a dhobi. For some reason, Bangalore doesn't seem too big on that - or maybe it's just my neighborhood. We do have iron guys downstairs, but they're pretty bad. They tend to lose clothes and then take FOREVER to return anything. I always got too alarmed by the color loss to soak anything for too long. I LOVE Fab India.

  4. Thank you by the way for the Liebster award. That is fabulous!

  5. You're most welcome!

    Dhobis probably only exist in more rural areas now. Bangalore being the "happening place" that it is... everyone would have washing machines I guess. I don't know what I would do without the dhobi though. I'm much too lazy to wash all my clothes by hand!

    I'll give you an outline of how to deal with the award, and then, if you need more information just let me know. The first time I received one Pish Posh had to spell the whole thing out for me :)

    First of all, not everyone follows the guidelines, so if you aren't inclined to pass it on to five more bloggers that's perfectly fine. You could just take the award image from my page and plug it into one of your blogs so that people can see it.

    If you do want to pass it on, go ahead and choose the five bloggers. Then, mention them in your post, linking their names to their blogs so that people can check them out easily.

    Save the Award image from my blog to your computer and then upload it to your blog. Either in the post or, if you prefer, on your sidebar.

    Let the five bloggers you're giving the award to know. I think that's about it - but if you need more let me know and I would be happy to help.

    By the way, a blogger friend of mine, "Red", lived in Sri Lanka for a few years when she was growing up. I'm sure she would be very interested to hear what it's like now :)

    Thanks for your response - I'll follow your other main blog as well so that I can keep up properly.

    Love Live Fab India!

  6. Bwa ha ha ha ha. I don't think I'd survive India without my washing machine. If I had to wash all of our clothes by hand I don't think I'd have time for anything else. I only have a handful of clothes every few weeks to be washed by hand - that's about all I have patience for. We live in a very large, newish complex, so washing machines are pretty standard here.

    I'll have to be sure to keep up with the blogging on my trip. I'm pretty much a camera freak too, so there will be pictures. Oh yes, there will be photos.

    1. Lol... you know, I've had a very easy life in the village There are always people to do things for me!

      Once I read an article about an Indian who moved to the States - and the lady was horrified by all the work American women do lol... she said something like - yes, they have all these machines to help them out - but in the end, American women are slaves to household work.

      It's a bit of a disadvantage to grow up this way because you really don't learn housekeeping... and then one day you need those skills... but too bad, you have to start from scratch.

      I think I'll write a post about it ;-)

    2. I've actually heard much of the same story. Indian ladies are absolutely horrified that American women do all their own chores, or pay an arm and a leg to have a few things done for them.

      My sister in law mentioned the same thing about growing up without learning to do her own chores. She left for the states to work and was horrified that she didn't know how to do anything.

      My husband's grandmother went 40 years without cooking until she went to the US and had to figure it out for herself.