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In Pictures: India politicians' dirty laundry
Brigade of dhobis or washermen in capital New Delhi work overtime to maintain clothes of leaders on campaign trail.
Last updated: 13 Apr 2014 11:21
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Parliamentary election fever has taken over India as voting began in full swing on April 7 and is expected to run untill May 12. Politicians of every hue are on the campaign trail in the trademark starched white kurta (long shirt) teamed with pajama (pants) or dhoti (rectangular piece of unstitched cloth that's wrapped and knotted).

But somewhere away from the cocophony of the elections, a brigade of dhobis (washermen) are working overtime to maintain the clothes of these politicians.

 

Dhobi Ghat-No 15 in New Delhi, India's capital, boasts of its high-profile clientele. Located near the Parliament House and the residential quarters of politians, this open air laundromat is the place where the clothes of many leaders are washed, starched, bleached and ironed.

"Our work-load doubles during elections and parliament sessions," says Ram Prasad, 44. 

"Politicians are busy traveling and campaigning and once they are back, their men give us the clothes to wash and iron in bulk and often we also go to their house to collect laundry. We have been washing clothes for generations which was most done by hands but now we also make the use of washing machines."

Decades back, these washermen, mostly from underprivileged caste, had access to the houses of political bigwigs. They even knew some of them personally, but with the passage of time and a new generation of politicians, that has been lost.

Gaya Prasad, 63, is the oldest washerman in the dhobi ghat. He has washed the clothes of former Prime Minister of India, Chandra Shekhar. His father used to wash the clothes of Lal Bahadur Shashtri, the second Prime Minister of India. According to Prasad, he knew Chandra Shekhar personally and it was on his recommendation that some people were able to meet the former Prime Minister.

"I used to personally go and collect his clothes and would meet him regularly. The day his wife died, he had hugged me and wept," says Prasad.

"Times have now changed. I have never met the new generation politicians. Their clothes are sent to us by their house helps."


/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Dhobi Ghat No.15, located near the Parliament House of India in New Delhi, has the bigwig politicians of the country as its main customers.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

A glimpse of the Dhobhi ghat as clothes are sorted to be washed. 



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

White coloured kurta (long shirt) pajama (traditional pants) or kurta with dhoti (traditional men's garment) are the trademark attire of Indian politicians.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

It is the responsibility of dhobis to ensure that the white clothes worn by politicians remain bright.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Gaya Prasad, 63, says that on regular days, fewer politicians send the clothes to the dhobhi ghat as most use the government-hired house helps to wash their clothes.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Workload for washermen increases in the election season, as does the demand for sparkling white clothes.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Washing, bleaching, starching and ironing of the white clothes are done at this dhobi ghat.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

"MPs  and ministers are the ones who mostly use our services. I have washed the clothes of almost every party’s politician," Chhotay Lal, 60, says.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Clothes being dried on the side of a road outside the Dhobhi Ghat in New Delhi.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Ravi Kumar, 43, irons the washed clothes with an electric press.



/

"Gone are the days when dhobis would visit their houses and the master of the house would talk to them or give them mithai (Indian sweet) on special occasions," Ram Kripal, 37.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Parshu Ram, 48, irons the kurta belonging to Paul Manoj Pandian, MP from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Ram has also washed clothes of politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, former chief minister of Bihar state and federal railway minister.



/Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera

Laundry of V Narayanasamy, a politician from the ruling Congress party and a member of parliament representing the Puducherry constituency, hanged from a rope for drying.




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images:
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captions:

Dhobi Ghat No.15, located near the Parliament House of India in New Delhi, has the bigwig politicians of the country as its main customers.

;*;

A glimpse of the Dhobhi ghat as clothes are sorted to be washed. 

;*;

White coloured kurta (long shirt) pajama (traditional pants) or kurta with dhoti (traditional men(***)s garment) are the trademark attire of Indian politicians.

;*;

It is the responsibility of dhobis to ensure that the white clothes worn by politicians remain bright.

;*;

Gaya Prasad, 63, says that on regular days, fewer politicians send the clothes to the dhobhi ghat as most use the government-hired house helps to wash their clothes.

;*;

Workload for washermen increases in the election season, as does the demand for sparkling white clothes.

;*;

Washing, bleaching, starching and ironing of the white clothes are done at this dhobi ghat.

;*;

"MPs  and ministers are the ones who mostly use our services. I have washed the clothes of almost every party’s politician," Chhotay Lal, 60, says.

;*;

Clothes being dried on the side of a road outside the Dhobhi Ghat in New Delhi.

;*;

Ravi Kumar, 43, irons the washed clothes with an electric press.

;*;

"Gone are the days when dhobis would visit their houses and the master of the house would talk to them or give them mithai (Indian sweet) on special occasions," Ram Kripal, 37.

;*;

Parshu Ram, 48, irons the kurta belonging to Paul Manoj Pandian, MP from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Ram has also washed clothes of politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, former chief minister of Bihar state and federal railway minister.

;*;

Laundry of V Narayanasamy, a politician from the ruling Congress party and a member of parliament representing the Puducherry constituency, hanged from a rope for drying.

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Photographer:
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Image Source:
Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
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