India Lesson #7: The Laundry

Imagine if every time you needed to do the laundry you had to gather up your clothes, place them in a large round plastic tub that you then carried to the river in town. You’d then find a large flat stone in the river where you’d squat in the mid-day broiling heat, and wash clothes.  Each item would be meticulously soaped, rinsed and rung out, then placed back in the tub, and when you were done, you’d carry your wet load back to the house to hang on the line to dry in the 100 degree heat. 

This is the scene I’ve been observing of the past two weeks in Hariharipura.

I have been mesmerized by the beauty and rhythm with which these women wash clothes.
Just yesterday I saw three ladies in their zone. They squatted on slabs of rock in the river, and  rhythmically soaped and rinsed saris, t-shirts, napkins and pillow cases. One lady was washing her saris, opening each one to rinse. Streams of fuscia, orange, lime and light blue flickered in the water as she opened them one at a time..

I sat on the side in the shade, protected from the pounding sun by my wide brimmed hat and I couldn’t help but think about how easy it is for me to do my laundry at home. You know, all we have to do is throw the load in the washer, pour in the soap and press the start button. My only frustration is when I press start only to find out later that the machine didn’t begin the cycle..

As I contemplated their work, I knew I’d have far fewer clothes if I had to lug my clothes to the river to do my wash. The whole encounter had my mind buzzing with questions about luxury, the number of clothes I have, the “ease” of doing my wash, which allows me to have more clothes because it IS so easy to wash them. I spiraled into a plethora of questions about how many clothes I need, how many I actually wear, and what I can let go of when I'm home. 

More questions arose about women all over the world who wash clothes this way, and untruth I wanted to step out on the rocks wth them to learn their sturdy methods. But that will have to wait for another time.

I left the broiling sun to come back to the shade of the ashram and felt the encounter with the ladies would be with me for a while, inviting me to contemplate how much stuff I really want to take care of, how I spend my time and energy.

As the old adage goes, “less is more,” and it is often the case.