Tag Archives: laundry

Gray is the new white……..

There is no doubt that India is the land of vibrant fabrics and beautiful cloths. Just a few clicks thru my blog will highlight how lovely the women dress here. Everywhere you turn there is color.

We all have wondered why the colors are so alive. And I think I may have solved the mystery. This is what happens when you wash white clothes here….

The sock on top is from a pair that I just bought at Christmas. The pair on the bottom is brand new.  So after just a few washings, gray is the new white.  😉

Putting it all on the line…………

On our recent trip to Mumbai, we managed a quick tour of the city. This was by far my favorite stop. The laundry district….

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In this area, thousands of garments are washed every day. It was an amazing array of colors amidst a very gray and drab backdrop.

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India is such a land of dichotomies – really, call centers are changing the way America’s operates (and the world for that matter) and yet, here is laundry being done the old fashioned way. And even though I can imagine a million ways to do it better – this does work.

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I could have really stayed here all day and watched this process unfold – but, alas, I had a battle of the bands competition to get to.

This is (kind of) funny………….

Upon hearing that we were moving to India, I got a boat load of questions – the two most common were by far….

Do cows really roam the streets there and aren’t you going to have like a million people working in your house?

The answer to number one quickly revealed itself as YEP, they sure do.

And number two was – well, not exactly a million.

Now, if you are used to doing most of your own housework, shopping, cooking, driving, and cleaning, having a “staff” initially sounds very appealing. And once you get the right staff, it is really nice in many ways. But there are shortcomings and some of them make me laugh.

Here is what happened today.

As I have mentioned, we just got a new cook. So far she rocks. She made homemade chocolate chip cookies today. Sweet mother of chocolate chip God. They were fabulous. Yes, they WERE, because we have almost completely polished off the entire double batch. And yes, by saying we, I really mean me. And, yes, I promise not to complain about gaining weight later. Pinky swear.

Oh wait, before I can pinky swear, I have to lick this chocolate off of my pinky. There. Okay, now, I pinky swear.

Laxmi is also doing laundry for us. And putting laundry away. Enter the funny part.

I wear tank tops under my shirts because it is too flippin hot here for a bra with padding and/or underwire. My 10-year old daughter also wears tank tops as a pajama top. So does my 12-year old son – as an undershirt.

Do you see where this is going? I have never been accused of being well endowed – even pregant, I was a member in good standing of the little bitty committee. But, even if you are fully aware and even accepting of reality, it is not exactly a boost to your ego when the person who puts your clothes away confuses your tank tops with your son’s and daughter’s tank tops. Really, truly it is not.

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling……..

Today, with no one but me to do laundry, I actually folded some clothes. I opened my daughters’ dresser drawer to put away a shirt – I shifted some things around to make room – and I was almost knocked over by the softest, gentlest breeze of fresh air I have ever felt and smelled. I swear it whisked my bangs away from my eyes. My head tilted back. My eyes closed. My imagination took me across oceans. There might have even been angels singing. Oh heaven. The commercials are true! Fabric softener does make your clothes smell like a spring breeze.I might just buy stock in Downy.

There must have been something in that drawer that my daughters have decided is not India worthy. It has been left unworn, untainted at the bottom of their drawer. And it is the only thing we have left that still smells like home. (Well, to be fair, the cat litter still smells the same – but somehow it just doesn’t compare.)

Our bath towels have long ago lost the softness and smell of home – their loving feeling. Now I get my loofa scrub when I get out of the shower and dry off with a towel that has been hung out to dry.

So I stood at the drawer for a minute and I thought. Think. Think. Think. There must be something I can do. So I decided to conduct a little experiment.

My blog friend at Mr. Smith Goes to Delhi had told me that dryer sheets were hard to find here. But what she didn’t say was dryers were harder to find. So, I did bring some dryer sheets with me. But, alas, we don’t have a dryer – well, unless you call God sneezing a dryer, but at least we don’t have a dryer that utilizes dryer sheets. So, they have sat unused on top of our washer. Until today. I put two in the washer with my towels. They did come out smelling nicer than they have been smelling. They are drying now and I will let you know how it goes.

P.S. I know some of you are thinking – they have fabric softener in Delhi – just buy some of that. Here is where you have to have lived somewhere that has a Tide laundry detergent/Downy fabric softener combination available to use with your laundry. And you have to have been somewhere where dryers aren’t uncommon. And you have to have smelled clothes that come out of the dryer toasty warm smelling of that combination. It’s similar to fresh bread coming out of the oven – except it’s fresh bread that you can wrap around your body. Soft, warm, spongy fresh bread with melted butter on it. And your doctor just insisted that you must stop the ridiculous dieting right now and gain 5 pounds already. See what I mean? Heaven!

And, yes, I have seen Tide here. But it comes in very small packages and it is expensive. So, please remember, I have three children who would like to go to college at some point. India has convinced them that being homeless is not the career path they hope to follow. So they might have to suffer through scratchy clothes in order for us to pay tuition. If I decide they aren’t actually college material, bring on the Tide – but that is yet to be determined.

Domestic Dispute…….

When I was in college, I was in a sorority and we would have roundtable discussions – where we were free to voice our opinions and let others know what was bothering us. But in the spirit of sisterhood, we were not allowed to specifically mention another sister’s name. So we would start our discussion with “sister x” did this or “sister x” should really think about this. Well let me tell you about “cook x”.

Anyone who has lived in India for at least 5 minutes has a domestic staff story to tell – so the fact that it has taken us 7 weeks to earn our story to share is probably pretty good.

Number One Hubby hired our cook the week before the kids and I got here. He speaks good English, cooks American food, irons clothes well, and was supposed to have making bread as his specialty. He agreed to cook, clean, and do laundry for a family of five. And he promised to make yummy homemade bread. (The way to our family’s heart is with with yummy homemade bread.)

Enter a family of five.

First day:
Oh boss, I cannot cook, clean, and do laundry for a family of five. And, I need a raise. Yes, on his first day.

So, we continued with Ravi who was cleaning just for hubby. He comes in for 4 hours a day and is thorough and unassuming and very kind. So, that’s okay. We like him and not having to let him go was okay with us. Now cook does not have to clean.

We even gave the cook a raise. A 20% raise. We liked him too. (Just in case you are new at this whole staff thing – apparently, you start with someone on a temporary basis and a lower salary – then after a few weeks, if you plan to keep them, you give them a raise. We got to the whole raise thing a little early.)

So then he asks for us to include bus fare in his salary. This is really not a big deal because bus fare usually does not run more than $20 a month (and that is on the high end). So, bus fare it is. I think it might have been $10 for our cook.

We did not pack our kitchen up and bring it with us. We have just gotten things as we realized we need them. There has not been one thing he asked for that I did not get. Not one.

From what I can gather, domestic staff usually work about a 12 hour day in India. Our cook generally worked a 9-hour day and had most Saturdays off completely – or if he worked, he just worked a few hours.

Then our cook’s wife started a new job and they were moving. So we gave our cook several days off of work to move and coordinate moving.

Along with the move came the need for a security deposit. I don’t know if you just heard the collective gasp rolling across Delhi – but the number  one rule in having domestic staff is to NEVER lend them money.

We lent him money. I know, I know!

He was to pay it back over 5 months. Honestly, I will not regret this decision. We immediately agreed that it was the right thing to do. It was not so much money that it was life changing to us – but it was for our cook – and it helped him get a roof over his head. So, we did it – and, yes, we would most likely do it again.

Our cook was not happy with our smaller washing machine – so we have ordered a larger one. Our cook was not happy with our fridge – so we got a larger one.

Finally, our cook’s new digs did not have drinking water – so every night he would take lots of water home with him. We were happy to let him do that.

And quite possibly the straw the broke the camel’s back – the cook never made the promised bread for hubby. That was not a good idea. A fresh, warm loaf of homemade bread forgives a multitude of sins.

So, what I am saying is – he had it pretty good.

Or at least we thought so. Apparently he did not agree. He wanted a uniform allowance. Which is not uncommon – but we felt that we had given quite a bit already. (Again, if you are new to having staff – what I have found out is that it is normal to give domestic staff a clothing allowance for summer and fall. And a bonus at Diwali. But that the clothing allowance generally comes after they have been with you for 6 months or so.)

Hubby said no. Here is a note to staff – perhaps it is prudent to begin paying back the one month’s salary before you ask for a uniform allowance. Just think about it – ‘kay? Especially if you are new to the family.

Then he asked hubby again. The hubby said no – again.

Hubby is not impressed with having to say no again.

Our cook has been working for us for about 5 weeks at this point.

Then our cook asks me. Here is a second note to staff. If my hubby says no to you twice – I am not going to say yes. I err on the side of hubby. Period.

I told him he had to talk to the boss about it – that was his department – I can tell him what we want for dinner – that is my department.

Hubby overheard him ask me. Note to staff number 3 – it is not wise to try to win the wife over in earshot of the hubby. Not very wise at all.

So hubby comes into the kitchen and gives me a way out of the conversation. Thank you hubby.

But hubby is not done with the conversation.

Hubby outlines all of the things we have done. Cook tells hubby that hubby just does not care and that the wife is more understanding. Do I need to insert the fourth note to staff here – I bet I don’t – I bet you know all by your lonesome just what it is.

Needless to say, after talking in circles with our cook, my hubby invited our cook to leave and walked him out the gate.

It turns out that our cook had been bad-mouthing us to our driver and Ravi. They both are happy that he is gone. We both felt bad about letting our cook go – until we heard this. Note to staff number 5 – do not bad mouth your boss to the other people who work for him. They will sell you out. Quickly.

So, while I will miss his pasta salad, I now have a domestic staff story. We have two leads on new staff people – and you know I will let you know how it goes!

Please do the needful……..

This is the sticky note that number one hubby gets on his desk sometimes. “Please do the needful.” It really means – do this or, usually, sign this. But the Indian people seem so polite that they almost make it sound poetic. Maybe it makes you want to be more helpful.

When I call India, I call through an operator. S/he is always so polite – “please be on the line, please hold the line”. Really, no wonder we sought out the Indian people for call centers!

So, I am looking forward to hearing all the different ways that English can be used. It makes me slow down and listen too – I need to do that. Accents can be heavy – and I am sure they will feel the same about mine. But I cannot wait to hear and maybe even adopt some of their expressions.

One other thing that was very fun to see was this…

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If this is how they treat t-shirts, imagine how they treat people. These are my husband’s t-shirts – I am sorry, undershirts. They aren’t even t-shirts. And they are treated with such care. Yes, you are seeing this correctly – they are indeed wrapped in clear plastic, with clips and cardboard support. Believe you me, they do not look like that when I wash them! India, here we come!

My own personal post it note also says “please do the needful.” I am off to pack. Ta Ta for Now. And yes, Please hold the line.

Jed Clampet would be so proud…

Are you ready for this one?

I just found out that our washing machine is going to be on our porch. Let me see if I can guess what you are asking yourself – yes it is covered. But nope, it’s not a screened-in-porch (Why would they do that? Mosquitoes are a huge problem in India – no need for screens. What a relief, I feel better already.) Nope, no dryer hookup either. Just a washer. And apparently a really long string.

So not only will I have a washing machine on the front porch, I will also have laundry hanging out on lines. I am sure to be the envy of the neighborhood. Holy smokes. Bow chink a now now. I have nothing else to say about it – I think this news flash pretty much speaks for itself.

Update – Number One Hubby tells me that the washer might not have to be on the porch – it might actually fit in the bathroom. I have just one question – it is a bathtub/washer combination or do I get to now bathe on the porch? Yikes.