Laundry Industry, photo essay by Sagar Chatterjee
The ‘washerman’ or in the colloquial accent , ‘the laundry man ‘ or ‘dhobi’ are the most low stratified caste of men in India. In spite of belonging to the most lowest strata of society they serve the most useful occupation of the people of the upper caste. The term ‘dhobi’ has been derived from the Hindi word ‘dhona’… which would describe their occupation of washing or cleaning clothes. These washermen or laundry men belong to a group of skilled labour, they have inherited their profession from their fathers and forefathers and have ascended the same line of their ancestral profession. While this can be one of the root cause for the existence of the washermen today in India, on the other hand the secondary causes lay in the fact that population explosion which cannot provide job to millions of youth,as a result of which they are compelled to take up various other profession that they get in handy. The traditional washermen could be traced to the rural areas or in the suburb or in the outskirts that could be distinguished from the laundry men of the urban belt though they are similar in their but a thin line of difference do exist. While the former are extremely skilled and laborious and honest in their work, the latter is not that skilled as many of them have adopted this profession, although it is labour intensive in both the cases but the sincerity is more profound with the former. Despite such toilsome labour the village washermen hardly get any wages unlike an urban washermen who manages to earn real well… rather the former get reward in the form of kinds like grains and the like in d time of harvest, with that he manages to feed his family throughout the year. The life of the washermen is absolutely not an easy job… they have to go through a lot of physical toil each and every day. The job of these laundryman may seem to be very simple to look at but it is indeed a very labour intensive process. They would go to each and every house to collect those bundle of clothes and carry that heavy bag on their back, climb the stairs n their return it back to them, doing these everyday is not an easy task at all especially when one carries this profession even in the old day. They carry these loads of clothes to the ghats and wash them off manually which requires a lot of physical strength,in spite of the scorching heat of the sun,despite the rain… they carry on their work mechanically; but they are extremely careful about their work in the sense that they cannot afford to lose the clothes or else they have to ponder upon a huge compensation.Their work includes toil,labour,pain but despite all these negation they do they work with lot of care, devotion and sincerity. The saddest part is after doing so much of hard work they manage to get very little wage that could suffice their families with a two square meal. It is still better in the case of urban washermen as compared to the rural. We therefore should be grateful to the working class irrespective of their occupation who are looked down upon but it is these people who serve the most useful work of our society and in fact without whom life would be really difficult to us!
(by Sagar Chatterjee)