Indian Soap Opera

Indian Soap Opera

Or: 79 steps to clean clothes or:Bum scratching man and his disgusted missus

In India, 53.3 % of the households sport a mobile phone, less than 20 % own a washer and only 11.9 % have access to a toilet connected to a sewage system. Clean tap water is not an Indian authority priority and consequently the cause of constant laundry and other logistic challenges.

Always on my mind... water
Always on my mind… water

And to add to the fun: In Tamil Nadu, current is a commodity about as reliable as desert rain and predictable as a 5-year-old on speed. 

India's current situation
India’s current situation

The only sure thing about Madurai  laundering is the fact that your garments will get dirty. So when your wall to wall clothes line is nearing empty and the clothes basket in the corner is brimming over, it is time to set the wash cycle in motion:

Check power situation. If power:

1. Go outside

2. Walk along the length of the building, past neighbour’s flat

3. Don’t look in through the open double doors to see mum scrubbing the floor, dad watching TV while scratching his bum, the kids demolishing a bag of crisps…

4. Climb two flights of stairs to roof

5. Enjoy amazing views to Hindu temple and Elephant Mountai


Hindu Gods
Hindu Gods

6. Check water tank situation

7. Open tank valves

8. Run down four flights of stairs

9. Cross downstairs neighbours’ porch, gossip about upstairs neighbours (see 3)

Downstairs neighbour's welcoming Kolam
Downstairs neighbour’s welcoming Kolam

10. Go around the corner, turn pipe valves to “open”

11. Switch on water pump

12. Clamber back up two flights

13. Do 3

14. Don’t look in through the double doors to notice father has stopped scratching his bum, now working on his legs, kids having fallen asleep on the floor, overhearing mum loudly expressing her disgust by husband’s constant scratching and burping

15. During the 9 minutes required for the water tank to fill up:

a. cut veggies

Chop Veggies
Chop Veggies

b. boil rice

c. sweep floor

d. throw garbage over the railing and into the street

e. watch garbage settle nicely among other waste along with cow, pig and goat droppings. (No, farm animals are not allowed in residential areas, but no one checks, just like no one cares about or collects the refuse…)

Amazing waste
Amazing waste

16. Notice water spilling out from over the roof

17. While cursing yourself for forgetting the time repeat 2 and 3

18. Don’t look in to overhear mum declaring she’s had it; she’s upping and going, to stay with her mum for few days

19. Repeat 5 and 6, this time feeling a slight drop in enthusiasm over view

Elephant Mountain Sunset Cricket
Elephant Mountain Sunset Cricket

20. Close tank inlet

21. Repeat 9

22. Switch off pump

23. Do 13, 14

24. Don’t look in to see mum furiously packing her bag, father looking on with a sheepish look on his face, trying to sweet talk her into staying, promising he’ll cook dinner that night. Something both she, he and we know will never happen.

25. Do 2 reversed

26. Get dirty clothes

27. Enter hole-in-the-floor toilet

28. Fill buckets with water

29. Dump washing in buckets

Water for elephants...,  and washing
Water for elephants…, and washing

30. Rinse washing

31. Add soap, leave clothes to soak

32. Continue 16 a

33. Remove rice from stove

34. If the feeling takes you, repeat 16 d, try hitting a cow this time

35. Repeat 28

36. Get into a crouching position

37. Roll each piece of clothing into a ball and slam it repeatedly onto the floor, much like a Russian babushka kneading a sourdough


38. Slam

39. Slam

40. Slam

41. Give really dirty clothes a round with the brush

42. Brush

43. Brush

44. Brush

Brushed Jeans
Brushed Jeans

45. Rinse clothes in bucket of water

46. Rinse

47. Rinse

48. Rinse

49. Repeat for every d*** piece of clothing

50. Wring clothes

51. Wring

52. Wring

53. Wring, bl***y wring

54. Put clothes in a big plastic bow

55. Pick up bowl and try to do like the locals

Like the locals
Like the locals

56. When half of the washing has slid out of the bowl you’re unsuccessfully trying to balance on your head, forget about keeping up appearances and clutch bowl with both hands and hug it to your belly.

57. Repeat 2 and 3

58. Don’t look in to see kids now screaming, wanting their mum, dad scratching his head wondering how to cope with both howling kids and scratching while wife is gone

59. Do 5

60. Don’t do 6 because by now couldn’t care less about the bl***y view

61. Peg clothes on one of the many lines criss-crossing the roof

High and dry
High and dry

62. Do 5 reversed

63. Do 14

64. Don’t look in to see kids having a blast jumping up and down on a torn sack of rice, grains spilling all over the floor, dad screaming, frantically scratching all over

65. Prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner

Indian Curry
Indian Curry

66. Do 2 and 3

67. Don’t look in to see exhausted dad asleep on the floor, kids using his bulging, overstuffed, under-exercised belly as trampoline

68. Do 5

69. grumble under your breath about Hindu gods being good for nothing, at least not when it comes to helping out with the washing

The Gods washing their hands of the laundry
The Gods washing their hands of the laundry

70. Unpeg clothes

71. Do 5 reversed

72. Do 3

73. Don’t look in to see dad on the phone, overhearing him ask his mum if he and the kids can come stay for a few days, he misses her so…

Manly Man Wash
Manly Man Wash

74. Fold clothes

75. Stash clothes

By now you’re overripe for a shower which means:

Do1, 2, 3 ( this time actually not looking into neighbour’s flat as it is now closed up and evacuated), 5, 6 (ha!), 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12….

78. To save water and washing, lather your undergarments in the shampoo of your hair. And THAT is not a joke (either)

Killing two birds with one stone: Washing with clothes on
Killing two birds with one stone: Washing with clothes on

79. Start actual work day

Notes to self:

a. try to keep clothes clean as long as possible

b. redefine concept of Dirty

Constructive comments (see below), short or long, appreciated:-)

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