Day 2 was so much better, you guys!
We began our day by getting down at Chinchpokli station as our first stop was supposed to be Dhobi Ghat. However, when we reached Dhobi Ghat, we decided to explore the area around a bit, mainly because our empty stomachs could no longer wait.
Our subsequent sauntering led us to one particular gully where we found a chai tapri (tea stall) named “SHREE GANESH TEA HOUSE” (it was written in hindi. you can see it in the picture below!). The tea was delicious, by the way! (In case you’re interested)
After the boys were done filming the area, they approached the tea vendor and requested him for a picture. The reaction we received from the man was so warm; he very efficiently began posing-candid (if you know what i mean). However, he seemed quite apprehensive when we asked him if we could interview him for our video as he had been living here for more than three decades. Even after repeatedly explaining to him that we were mere college-going students who would use his clip for a project, he was still not convinced enough.
But I guess with the growing prevalence of social media, everyone is, in some way or the other, afraid of being caught off guard.
In the same gully, we were fortunate enough to be spotted by a man who was kind enough to stop and warn us not to give any money to the Dhobi Ghat workers for filming them as its illegal. He also gave us the contact number of someone who we could talk to in case they asked us for money.
The fact that he approached us on his own was so heart-warming! This is, of course only a small example showcasing the cooperative and helpful nature of the city that first made me fall in love with it.
We then moved on to actually visiting Dhobi Ghat. It was my highlight of the day!
There is a staircase that connects the bridge across Mahalaxmi station to the destination. While the boys were busy filming from there, I happened to eavesdrop (in my defence, they were way too loud to ignore!) on two foreigners conversing with an Indian. The Indian was telling them what Dhobi Ghat is in general. They seemed pleasantly amused. What amplified their amusement is the news of how we have separate “Ladies’ compartments” in our local trains and how its considered so natural and if a foreigner were to enter one of these coaches, he would be beaten black and blue as its strictly forbidden and everybody follows it.
Which quite frankly made me want to explode into a fit of laughter as that is not entirely true (although his enthusiasm in giving that bit of information was adorable). I have heard a few cases of men entering Ladies’ Compartments and refusing to get out, rendering the women utterly helpless.
Now, of course, what I have heard may be a one-in-a-million incident. But the fact remains that its a few of these incidents that give birth to loopholes for people to take advantage of.
For those of you who don’t know, Dhobi Ghat is a 140-year-old open air launderette in Mumbai. Although, it isn’t exactly a launderette. It’s a lot like a huge washing machine; except that the machine is the most complicated machine in the world – humans. Everyday thousands of kilograms of clothes are dipped in water, hand-beaten, scrubbed, washed, draped and left to dry (probably even ironed but I’m not sure about that) on the roofs of the houses and ropes that spread across the area by a community of families that live there itself. The houses, made of bricks, guard the area. The entire process is impeccable!
Dhobi Ghat is a beauty and one cannot grasp that from the outside. You need to step in and witness the endless rows of concrete wash basins interrupted by a very efficient sewage system that carries soapy water and other dirt all the way to the end. There are men constantly walking around with piles of clothes on their backs, children playing in the little free space available outside their homes, women washing utensils in the open; they’re all so busy in their work that when you’re there, no one will even look at you. Except, of course, if you’re in their way then they will have to more than just look at you!
People from all across the world visiting Mumbai stop here to witness the horizons of human capacity. It has also become more popular due to the release of Kiran Rao’s film Dhobi Ghat in 2010.
The only actual machine that they use here is a kind of dryer. It is a mechanically operated cylindrical container with round holes all around its surface. Clothes, after being washed, are put into this container which spins rapidly, releasing water that comes out of a small opening at the bottom. The clothes then come out as dry as they would out of an actual washing machine.
Maybe it’s the smell of the detergent mixed in water, or the humanness of the place, or the immense vitality and vigour in everything around that left me moved and oddly inspired for the rest of the day. Also, nobody there seemed, in any way, apprehensive of camera shutters and people lurking around as far as it does not disturb their work. Just like the Mumbai Dabbawalas, these people are, in their own way, a source of vision, finesse and pride for the city!
Our next stop was Haji Ali! A famous dargah located in Worli, South Mumbai. There’s a juice centre called the “HAJI ALI JUICE CENTER” right outside it and I’ve stopped there a million times but oddly, I’ve never gone inside Haji Ali! This truly surprised me.
Having never been inside a dargah, I was struck by complete fascination. Especially the fact that it’s located on an islet and has a stone path connecting it to land made it all the more exciting! It was sometime in the afternoon so the sea was really quiet. With no traces of a breeze, the water was still and dazzled as a result of the blazing sun above.
Upon reaching the dargah, we were instructed to follow different directions as the entrances for men and women were different. Now this, in the beginning, was not new to me because when you live in a country like India you get used to gender discrimination, in the positive and the negative way, both (separate hostels, professions etcetera, etcetera.. you get the drift). So, without giving it much thought, I covered my hair with a scarf and went as instructed. However, once inside I was a little surprised, to say the least. There was a barricade between the area where the tomb was placed and the area where I was standing. I was really taken aback.
I had never been to a dargah before so obviously it took me a bit by surprise. Although I’m not very religious in everyday life, I was left feeling a little disempowered in that particular moment.
I think the feeling predominantly stemmed from the fact that in today’s world a woman, subconsciously, measures her level of empowerment as a comparison to that of a man’s. Even without realising it, we are constantly setting the benchmark for our achievements in relation to what a man does or doesn’t. And it’s so important to understand this, I realise now.
After exiting Haji Ali, we left for Fort and just spent some more time walking around and getting shots. I came across some wonderful architecture, some of which I could capture well despite being a not-so-camera-savvy person: