Alva J Fisher, Jacob Christian Schaffer, Nathaniel Briggs.
Do you know them? Well I do. Not personally. I mean, we’re not exactly on hello/hi terms or such like. We couldn’t possibly be, them belonging to some centuries ago and already having passed on to the life after and all that.
When I say I know them, I just mean that I came across their names on Wikipedia, when I dropped by to check out who invented the washing machine. These names popped up among others. While I bit my tongue trying to pronounce some of them, I shall be forever grateful to these guys.
Because in my humble and personal opinion, the washing machine has to be the best invention ever! There are other things that will come a close close second, of course. In fact several things will jostle for space on my ‘best inventions ever’ platform, but for now the washing machine takes home the prize.
Why? Because I dislike the whole process of manually washing clothes, that’s why! Soaking them, brushing sweat and stains off them, wringing them, putting them out to dry – the works.
I say this not from a spectator’s ring-side point of view, but as an actual hands-on washer of clothes. You see, the WM made a late entry into my life. Before it’s advent I have bent my poor back over many a bucket load of clothes. And my hands – my poor soft gentle hands meant for artistic work like writing – have wrung out enough wet dripping clothes.
Before my mother jumps up from her recliner yelling Liar, Liar, I hasten to add that she was the washer woman of the house till we grew up summat! And of course the occasional maids who would drop in to see how we were, collect their wages and disappear.
Me and my siblings learnt to wash our own clothes early on. I learnt by watching. From the Pros – the visiting maids of course. Each had her own tried and tested technique.
One would fill up a bucket with water, pour in half a carton of detergent, work up a lather like a well made cappuccino, with lots of white creamy foam and immerse the soiled clothes in it. After a decent 10 minutes, she would fill up another bucket with clean water, transfer the soapy clothes into this. She would then fill up the 1st bucket with more water and transfer all the clothes back into it. You get the picture? Back and forth she would go having fun with 2 buckets and some water.
Another maid had given the mother standing instructions to soak the clothes half an hour before her arrival. Sometimes we forgot and then the scene that would unfold would resemble the scene on a cricket field when the bat strikes the ball – the two batsmen dash wildly across the pitch, the fielders run hither and thither and the two umpires skip around nimbly.
The scene in our home – mother would dash off to the bathroom, someone would rush to get the door and stall the maid for a few minutes and I … well I would run hither and thither looking important.
Yet another of my tutors was our back door neighbor at my parents home in Udupi. She had this small wooden apparatus resembling a bonsai version of a cricket bat, which she would apply energetically on the clothes. Bang, bang, bang she would go and the entire neighborhood would know that it was laundry time at their place. After the banging would follow a technique which never failed to delight me. It involved taking a soapy piece of clothing, circling it around the head and bringing it down hard on the washing stone several times.
This technique now goes by the name of the famed Helicopter shot perfected by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, no doubt copied from the above female.
Every time the clothes went flying around in the air, huge droplets of water went spraying out like a sprinkler on a lawn. That explained the stains on the back walls of our first home in Udupi. That also explains why we had to go around shutting all the windows facing the back yard every morning towards 11.00 am or thereabouts.
To be continued…
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