KOCHI: The Dhobi Khana, at Veli, in Fort Kochi may get all the paraphernalia seen at a modern laundrette. A draft proposal of Rs 50 lakh, submitted by the Dhobi Khana Association (DKA), has been submitted to the Kochi Corporation.
Through modernisation, the DKA aims to prevent youngsters in the community from leaving in search of better jobs. “Educated youngsters prefer white-collar jobs. For them doing laundry business is a blot on their reputations. The association is trying to address this problem by modernising the business,” said Sateesh S, secretary, DKA. “The current move aims at making our ancestral profession a full-fledged business.”
The Dhobi Khana, at Veli, believed to be the only one in Kerala, dates back to the colonial era. “Our forefathers were brought here by the Dutch from Thirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. We belong to the tenth generation of the Vannar community,” says S Rajashekharan, who has been working at Dhobi Khana for 30 years. At present, 55 families, who live on Dhobi Street, are engaged in the business. Apart from nearby areas, clothes are brought from hotels, homestays, hospitals and even cruise ships. The dhobis charge less, compared to the modern laundries.
The older generation blame lifestyle changes for a drop in the number of youngsters taking up their ancestral job. “Though we earn a decent living, the present generation finds it difficult to follow the traditional methods because of a change in their lifestyle. Modernisation will bring them back,” said 79-year-old C Ganesh, the oldest at the Dhobi Khana.
Sateesh, a software test analyst, said, “Dhobis are busy throughout the year. The monsoon is the only season when work slows down, but that too can be remedied by installing modern equipment like industrial dryers.” If the proposal gets implemented, the dhobis will be able to take up bulk orders and take their professional standards to the industrial level. However, the modernisation dreams hinges on the project getting enough funds.
“The Corporation has been supporting maintenance works at the Dhobi Khana. The present project can be implemented only after the SC/ST department releases the required funds,” said Sheeba Lal, ward councillor. Dhobi Khana has been receiving small funds from the SC/ST department, with the help of the Kochi Corporation, for the past few years.
The association has built store rooms, a children’s park and a place for indoor games. The existing building from where were the Dhobi Khana operates was built in 1976 by the Greater Cochin Development Authority.
The building has 40 washing pens, one for each family. There are two wells and an open drying area near