Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This post was written on October 2nd.

At 7:00 this morning, I had my first experience with bucket laundry. How I've made it this far without doing laundry is a mystery even to me. All I know is that for about the past week, the girls from the hostel and I have had daily exchanges like this:

Me: Is today a good day to do laundry?
Hostelmate: Probably not--there's not much room on the clothesline/it's going to rain/etc.
Me (with relief): Oh, okay. Well maybe you can show me how to do it tomorrow, then.

Due to a combination of legitimate reasons, but mostly my own reluctance, 'tomorrow' turned into the next day, and the next day, and the day after that.

Today, however, I could no longer escape it. Prompty at 7AM, Renju and Hari came to my room and said, 'come, we will show you how to wash!' So I gathered the necessary supplies--my dirty laundry, two buckets, a scrubbing brush, soap powder, and bar soap--and resignedly followed them outside to the oh-so-intimidating washing stone that has been eyeing me for weeks.

'Renju and Hari' soon turned into a throng of girls, as I think they were quite intrigued at the spectacle taking place before them. Hand-washing is so second-nature to them--they've grown up doing it every day, from an early age--that of course the idea of someone of 22 being totally without this skill made my first experience worth observation.

My onlookers were all great teachers. They didn't know many of the words for the actions involved in washing clothes, so it turned into a mutually beneficial language exchange. They pantomimed, for example, churning the clothes in the bucket, and said thuni mukuka (the spelling of which I am probably completely butchering--this applies to any Malayalam words I endeavor to write throughout this description). Beating the clothes on the washing stone with soap was sopa tekuka. Accompanying the motion of wringing-out was the phrase pidiuka, which I told them, in English, was 'squeeze.' There was a good amount of delight at learning this word, and lots of laughter as we taught each other. It actually helped pass the time pretty quickly, and before I knew it, I had two buckets full of perfectly washed and clean clothes. All that remained was to vidikyuka, hang them on the aya, clothesline. And voila!

There's a good feeling that comes with accomplishing something with one's own two hands. And all before 8AM.

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