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Photographer's Note

Mumbai - Life in the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat

Some members seemed to like my previous pictures of the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat.
So here are the final three. Next time something different.

This dhobi ghat was mentioned in my guide book (10 lines!). I believe today it is mentioned in all guidebooks on Mumbai. There are lots of local travel agencies that have included the visit of a dhoby ghat in their programme. Not necessarily the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat.
But this one is the oldest and the largest of Mumbai. I’ve also seen a much smaller one but I’d recommend to visit this one.

When I was there I saw only one other tourist, a young woman from Germany who was on a world trip. So this dhoby ghat is certainy not overrun by visitors. But don’t expect to be the first one the workers will see.

From my hotel I had taken a taxi (taxis are very inexpensive in India) to the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum that is housed in a beautiful Renaissance revival style building. After my visit I had a look on the map and estimated that Mahalaxmi could be reached on foot within 20 to 25 minutes. I do like walking and certainly to explore places where I’ve never been before.

Very soon I found that I was the only foreigner on the street and in a neighbourhood that certainly could not be described as prosperous. But everyone was very friendly and pointed me in the right direction.
I wondered how I would be able to find the dhobi ghat. Would it be visible from the street? Or would I have to ask a dozen times?
But it was the dhobi ghat that found me. At a certain point a man came out of a very narrow side street (almost hidden by the displayed merchandise from shops) and he recognized me as a potential visitor. This was not really difficult I believe :)

He proposed to lead me around in the dhobi ghat. When I asked how much this would cost, he said ‘the standard amount that the community asks’ and mentioned a sum. That amount sounded very reasonable. I tried to bargain a bit but was not too successful. At that moment I really wondered if the money would actually go to the community.

The man led me around, up and down steep stairs and ladders to different roofs on which the laundry hung to dry and where there were views. We entered different workspaces where he gave a brief explanation and everywhere he knew the people. In all these places I was welcome.

At first I hesitated to take pictures but my ‘guide’ encouraged me to do so.
Some workers smiled or attempted to pose. Most of them saw my presence but just went on with their activities.
The fact that I was there in the company of one of them allowed me that I could look around everywhere and take pictures. I have no idea what it would have been if I had refused his offer. I doubt that I could enter anywhere. In that labyrinth I would not have found most workplaces and viewpoints either.

I think I did get value for my money. Since nobody else asked for money I had the impression that they all knew that it was a paid visit that benefited some kind of communal cash box.

So not a big adventure but an interesting and enjoyable experience.

If you find this note interesting, take a look at the workshop. Two daily life-pictures there.

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Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4330 W: 17 N: 10182] (41750)
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