I think we ought to build ourselves an ark, Noah-style. It's been raining cats and dogs (yes, they're allowed on the ark) for the past nine days in Sydney. Not Bombay-style "thunderbolts and lightning; very, very frightening" type of monsoonal rain (I wrote all about that here) but incessant rain that vacillates from downpour to drizzle, and drizzle to downpour with no silver lining in sight.
Which brings me to the awful truth that our house resembles a dhobi ghat. Everywhere I look, I see socks/singlets/sweaters hanging out forlornly to dry.
Remember those days before we had washing machines and dryers?
Back in the Bombay of my childhood, we had a maid who came to do the "top-work" i.e. sweeping and swabbing the floor and washing our clothes. But big bulky items like bedsheets, towels and blankets were reserved for the dhobi (washerman).
After our beds were stripped each week, mum and my aunt would shove the linen into the Dirty Clothes Box (DCB). This DCB came as standard in all Bombay homes. Ours was a tall wooden rectangular one with a small door at the bottom and slats on the side. The slats allowed us to literally 'air our dirty linen' without them turning musty. Inexplicably, the altar with the Cross, holy water and statues of various saints rested directly above it.
My cousins and I thought the DCB made the perfect hidey-hole for pint-sized people like us when a game of 'Hide and Seek' was in progress. The wooden slats allowed you a glimpse outside as the Seeker looked all around for us Hiders. And if you got the giggles, they were muffled by layers of bed sheets and towels.
Getting back to the dhobi: Every Saturday, our dhobi would turn up for the weekly give-and-take; he would give us the previous week's linen all freshly laundered and ironed and take this week's batch.
Like most families, we kept a tally of the INs and OUTs in an old notebook - an olden-day Excel spreadsheet if you will. Invariably, one item would be MIA.
The following conversation would ensue, with Nana speaking in her version of "Hindoostani" and the dhobi in his shudd Hindi:
"Where's the yellow pillowcase set with the purple embroidered flowers?" my Nana would ask the dhobi.
"Memsahib, I returned them last week," he would hesitatingly offer.
"No, I haven't checked them off in my book. Make sure you get them next week."
The laundry bundled up in a big bedspread, the dhobi would then secure this onto his bhaiya bicycle carrier, and set off to the neighbours' houses. Then to Carter Road or Bandstand where the linen would get a wash and wallop on the craggy rocks before they were wrung and spread out to dry there.
Next week, same time, same story.
Week after week, year after year...
...until my Uncle C went and bought a twin-tub washing machine.
Then, the dhobi's days were numbered.
So tell me, who does the laundry in your house? Do you separate your whites/brights/darks/linen? Or have a specific method of hanging out the washing? Do special items go to the laundry? And, in your opinion, what's the best way to spend rainy day?