Monday, November 19, 2007

The Madness of Laundry...

And the "Little House on the Prairie" Award goes to...Chandra Fischer! For...Handwashing her child's urine soaked bedsheets...TWICE! Ok, so I'm just publicly fishing for a little credit here...can't really blame me ;-) I used to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Now I get to live it! (Despite the niceties of Palm Meadows...I've heard another expat refer to this experience as "camping for two years.")

In all actuality, the award really should go to our maid, Vimala, who didn't quit on me even though she was forced to handwash ALL of our clothes for over a month. When we arrived we had a washing machine sitting in our utility room. Looking good except for the fact that it didn't actually work for more than 2 days. After multiple calls we finally had someone come, take it away for over a week, "fix" it and return it to our house where it again worked for 2 days. On the third day it appeared ready for take off...producing a sound so loud that the stray Tom cats began stalking our yard and the neighbors sent their non-English speaking grandmother over to try and tell us that there was something WRONG.

I kind of picture a family conversation in which she "drew the short straw" and had to be the one to confront those crazy American neighbors who apparently aren't smart enough to figure out that the washing machine needs to be euthanized. What they don't know is the level of desperation that I was overcome with: "It does work, it does, pay no attention to that sound, it WORKS!!!"

One of the major issues with broken appliances and the like is that service people do not exactly show up even close to the time or date they say they will.'s not an's not even a span of time (like I'll be there on Friday between noon and 5 pm.) When someone tells you that they will be there to fix something "tomorrow at 10 am" or "later today" or "on Tuesday" you must understand that this is only a suggestion...more of an article of good faith that someone, some day, at some hour, will arrive. And it will be when no one is at home. In which case, you will need to initiate the whole process again. I'm here to tell any person moving to India that you will save yourself a whole load of frustration just by knowing that time is a fluid notion here. Some days just are not auspicious days for fixing an appliance. And people are not "going to be" here or there...they are "here only." There is no instant gratification...a very western concept, if there ever was one! I can now, however, completely understand the reasoning for performing a "pooja" (essentially a ritual prayer or blessing...typically invoking various Hindu Gods or Goddesses, with offerings of incense, flowers, coins) on a mechanical object...

Back to the laundry: Our landlords bought a new machine and we were very happy...until last week, when it too, stopped working. Proving that there really is an exception to every rule...the repair man arrived the same day as the complaint, was carrying the "needful" part and fixed it on the spot. God Bless him!

You may have noticed that I do not in any way reference the clothes dryer. This is not because it works without issue. Rather, it is a *subtle* way of letting you know that it doesn't exist! All laundry items must be air dried. During the dry months this entails hanging the clothes on racks and lines on our rooftop deck. The sun is intensely hot, fading all color to a dusty version of it's former hue. Plus, it sort of ruins the ambience to sit down for cocktails surrounded by the family's underwear! During monsoon...things change. The clothes are hung outside. The humidity ensures that they remain quite damp throughout the day. By afternoon the clothes are finally looking dry. Dark Clouds begin to gather just at the moment that your preschooler shouts, "I gotta go poop!" You're left to quickly sort out what kind of a parent you'd be if you ignored that to save the laundry. Business attended to, you race up the stairs to the unmistakable sound of deluge and bang your head on the window, looking sorrowfully at the now sopping laundry. Some times you do rescue the clothes and then they must be draped about, ceiling fans at full blast in a final attempt to keep the mildew at bay. Occasionally you reassure your maid, as she gets ready to leave for the day, that "of course" you will remember to bring the clothes in! You don't.

There are other laundry issues: Crunchy, wrinkled clothes (especially towels and jeans...formerly made soft by "tumble dry," they now offer a brisk and painful reminder of what is lost to you.) T-shirts so stretched out that you convince yourself you've lost at least 10 pounds! A (ahem) $60.00 designer brassiere that you might have sworn was NOT blue the last time you put it on ("oh yes, madame, I don't know whatever happened?? I was thinking that this was not blue. Tsk. Tsk. You should never go to that shop again. Quality is not good, I think." ) Brightly dyed table linen washed with a white dress shirt on HOT (" are most certainly being much color is lost...this is not good.") AHHHHHHH! I do not mean to pick on my maid...she is a wonderful human being and a hard worker, Grayce and Owen love her, and I rely on her for many things...but there is just no way to reply to stuff like that. Either you spend your time furious or you patiently explain what you mean by "please don't wash the colors with the whites" again, knowing that some things are just lost in the translation by "of course, madame, I always wash the babies' dresses and madame's clothes and sir's clothes separate...and the purple and red linens...those separate too...but very poor quality" shaking head sadly.

The laundry is an all day, every day affair...washing very small loads in our teeny-tiny capacity machine, attempting to dry as described above and the final ironing....lots and lots of ironing. A friend's maid believes that ironing drains the soul out of a person. Thankfully, Vimala doesn't seem beset by that notion but you kinda gotta wonder...

The Fischers
wrinkled and crunchy in Bangalore!


T.T.J.K.B. said...

Adding 3 comments...
~ Amen Sister! I hear you!!
~ Interesting insight into India and the perception of time. In Hindi, the word for tomorrow and yesterday is THE SAME WORD!
~ When our maid mixes colors and whites, she informs us that our clothes "married". Again, no remorse, but almost a exurbence for our new colored clothes.

Mitchell Clan said...

I know it's not fair to laugh, but oh honey, this is so much like my Southern life in the trailer park that I'm simply wondering if you haven't mistakenly gone to Tallahassee, Florida! I hope your washer keeps up the spirit!