KARACHI: Dhobi Ghaat has been in Lyari for more than 100 Years and about four generations of dhobis have worked at this place. The number of workers has reduced now but most of the families engaged in the business have opted for in-house modern means of washing, where they use the latest electrical apparatus for the purpose. On the entrance of dhobi ghaat is where I met with a washerman Aslam Rajput, who had spent all his childhood at dhobi ghaat. Aslam now has four children of his own, who are all studying at the moment. “I want my children to be well-educated. What I do here is very hard work and I don't want my children to waste their time here,” he said. Aslam said there are no security concerns at the dhobi ghaat, but when there is the monsoon season we face a lot of problems. “Our work stops then because we can't work in the rain.” Another person at the dhobi ghaat, Bhao Bhai, a young and energetic man said that he owns a donkey. He said he likes to take part in donkey races and has won many tournaments in these races. The donkey that Bhao bhai uses for the races eats special food like dry fruits, and he gives the donkey injections to keep him further fit and in good shape for the race. He further added that the donkey race takes place every Sunday at Mai Kolachi Bypass and many people from Lyari participate in it.
Bhao bhai came to Karachi from Jacobabad when he very young. He has been working at the dhobi ghat since his childhood. After meeting Bhao bhai, I came across an old man who was busy washing clothes with his hands. Upon inquiring why he is using his hands to wash the clothes and not a washing machine, he said that he washes the fancy formal clothes by hand to avoid damaging the material.
I then met with a young boy who was busy hanging clothes. Upon talking to him I learned that he didn’t attend school. To support his family, he started working at the dhobi ghat with his father. His other siblings attended schools and were also working in different offices. He added, “It is because of the lack of education that we are forced to work here. It is very hard work.” I asked him why he was not attending school like his siblings, to which he responded “My father couldn’t support my education and so I had to leave my studies and work here but when I have children I will provide them with education.”
After meeting these washer men (dhobis) I realized that their life is very difficult. Most of these men have been working at the dhobi ghat since their childhood. They have a similar work pattern everyday. They collect clothes from different homes, wash them, dry them, iron them afterwards, and then return the clothes to the owners and receive payment against it. Many of them spend their entire life at this place.
Abdul Rehman is a participant from Sultanabad - Hijrat Colony. He is interested in photography. He runs a social media page covering stories from Sultanabad.