When a laundromat opened in a nearby village Dhobi was one of the first to experience this modern convention. He selected a large batch of his best clothing for the occasion. The clothes weren’t even dirty.
“Take mine, too!” his wife panted, running after him with her wedding sari.
When Dhobi approached the building, a crowd of pilgrims blocked the door. Mantras directed to Shiva rang out. A line formed and Dhobi fell into place behind the thirty-ninth person each one toting a bundle of dirty laundry. By late afternoon his turn finally came.
Dhobi asked a special favour. “Do you think I could have a small portion of the machine water as a keepsake?
The proprietors agreed, accepting the bottle Dhobi held in his outstretched hand. The magic cycle began: Soak/ Wash/ Rinse/ Spin. A man filled Dhobi’s bottle with water from the Rinse cycle.
Dhobi muttered his appreciation as though he were accepting prasad, communion, from the village priest.
He loaded the wet clothes onto the back of his compliant mule for the trip back to the ghat where Dhobi stretched each article over the banks to dry in the hot, dry Varanasi sun.