Mumbai being the huge city that it is, many things seem to be on a larger scale here, and taking care of the city’s laundry when many homes don’t have machines is a colossal task, taken on by the city’s dhobis, or laundrymen. Right outside the Mahlaxmi train station are the city’s dhobi ghats, (laundry baths), which consist of hundred of wash pens, drying lines, and of course workers, who live there with their families, doing the clothes washing for over 10,000 Mumbai residents. They also pick up and drop off each customer’s clothes to their door, and it barely costs anything. You can get a great view of the hanging clothes and some of the wash pens from right outside the train station looking below.
It’s well worth it to make your way down the stairs though and find a tour guide to take you through the complex; we found someone standing right by the entrance and it was well worth the 200 rupees he requested. He took us around and gave us some information, (although no one can explain the strange markings they tag each item with to identify it’s owner–there have been very few cases of clothes going missing or to the wrong customer!) but mostly it was a great opportunity to take some fascinating pictures!
Incidentally, there is an excellent movie called Dhobi Ghats that we watched in DVD our first week here about a dhobi and some of the people he meets when he delivers their clothes. It makes a great introduction to Mumbai. Not sure if it’s available outside of India, but if so, definitely check it out!