Washermen of iconic ‘Dhobi Ghat’ to live in towers
Mumbai, Nov 25 (IANS) The 25,000 washermen of Mumbai’s iconic ‘Dhobi Ghat’ — the scene of scores of Bollywood movies and the world’s largest open air laundromat — will move into tall towers, courtesy of a slum rehabilitation project which got underway on Friday.
The washerfolk living with their families in tiny slum dwellings surrounding the Dhobi Ghat, besides other ancillary industries, have given their consent to Omkar Realtors & Developers, said company Executive Director Kaushik More.
“The development project will not hamper the century-old heritage site comprising 731 washing pens and flogging stones, drying areas and the community areas of Dhobi Ghat, which is also a major tourist destination,” More said.
While 4,000 families have already moved out another 1,000 will shift within the next few months and Omkar plans to hand over their swank new 270 sq. feet flats with full amenities in towers surrounding the Dhobi Ghat, More added.
Later, the state government may consider giving a new look to the Dhobi Ghat itself by improving and beautifying the surroundings of the locality, which is spread across a sprawling 23 acres of land.
The washermen — known as ‘dhobis’ — work in the open with non-stop running water supply, drainage, washing soaps, detergents, whiteners and other accessories to manually wash big and small clothes in bulk, mostly from corporate clients, hospitals and deluxe hotels.
They are as unique to Mumbai as the famous ‘dabbawallas’, who pick up and deliver lunch boxes on time to lakhs of Mumbaikars daily.
Constructed in 1890 to cater to the washing requirements of the British and Parsis living in Mumbai, Dhobi Ghat stands adjacent to the Mahalaxmi station in south Mumbai, comprising rows of open air concrete wash pens and a heavy flogging stone.
In 2013, it added a new feather to its cap by bagging a Guinness World Record for the largest number of people washing clothes simultaneously, adding to its more than a century-old reputation.
It has over a dozen separate entry gates, where the hordes of washermen gain entry around 5 a.m. and they continue washing and drying clothes till 10 p.m., round-the-year.
Flocks of wide-eyed domestic and foreign tourists, walk around the Dhobi Ghat daily, or click pictures from the Mahalaxmi bridge. Many also click selfies with the dhobis heaving and puffing while washing the heavy laundry.
Bollywood director Kiran Rao (wife of Aamir Khan) had directed her first film named “Dhobi Ghat” (2011). Former US President Bill Clinton also paid a visit to the area once.
Dhobi Ghat has been a constant favourite with Bollywood directors. Notable among them are scenes in “Munnabhai MBBS”, Amitabh Bachchan’s “Don” and many more.