Old Faithfuls

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Meet Raju, our dhobiwalla from Frazer Town. He’s been a regular with us over the last 25 years. And a good example of peripheral relationships in old Bangalore. You know all about his kids and he has seen your kids growing up right from the time they were in diapers.

Raju is like our postman, who often drops by for a cup of tea and to chat about how things have changed after “email”.

But Raju is now endangered species – with coal prices spiraling, power tariffs on a shock-spree and shop rents hitting the roof. The “new age” cleaner around the corner is another looming threat to his existence. He is getting old and does not visualize his children getting into the same line. So it won’t be long before his trusty cycle leans against his wall to gather dust.

I don’t know how many old Bangaloreans can identify with this feeling of loss in terms of a close “peripheral relationship”, but I’m sure many of you have grown up with these familiar faces who have been so much a part of your life.

Another closed chapter on the changing face of Bangalore.

3 Comments so far

  1. Sharath Bhat (sharathbhat) on June 27th, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

    Just thought I’d start a series of posts on "people" from all walks of life. Right from the man on the street, to the busy professional. I really hope to capture the pulse of Bangalore, through slice-of-life stories on people who are not in the limelight, but very much a part of the city’s living fabric.


  2. radman on June 28th, 2008 @ 1:24 am

    Nice story. But, I am confused as to the economics of your analysis. How does escalating coal prices, power, and shop rents effect Raju to the degree that he is now "endangered".


  3. Sharath Bhat (sharathbhat) on June 28th, 2008 @ 7:42 am

    Dear Radman,

    Hope this widens awareness levels of basic scenarios back home.

    Dhobis typically start with "coal-loaded" irons (iron-boxes as
    they call it.) When coal prices go up, they experiment with large,
    heavy-duty electrical irons. With long working hours, these irons
    are plugged in 18 hours a day – which could mean steep power bills.
    For the average dhobi, operating at a survival level, basic running
    costs such as coal, electricity and rent are difficult to deal with;
    especially if there is an escalation in these costs.

    The "new-age" cleaner with large automated facilities operates at a higher level and obviously at a higher tag. Looking at changing consumer shifts over the years, I have seen a migration from the dhobi to these new-age cleaners. Understandable, because you wouldn’t give your Van Heusen shirts to a dhobi to launder; there’s a good chance that he’d ruin the collar with his heavy press.

    So, if you look at a steady erosion in your customer base and steep increases in operating costs, the writing’s on the wall.



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