Watershed moment for newly opened gallery at Dhobi Ghat

Updated: Mar 07, 2019, 10:25 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

The newly opened viewing gallery at Dhobi Ghat is turning out to be a hit with locals and tourists. Here's our report card

Stay away from the crowd — it has perhaps been the only advice we have taken seriously. That's why we've always avoided hanging around Mahalaxmi station, where all eyes and camera lenses drift towards laundry levitating in the sky. So, when we hear of a viewing gallery built by the station, it baffles us. Because, where else do you get the luxury of free space in Mumbai?

We step out of Mahalaxmi station and in less than a minute, we spot the curved balcony that extends off the bridge. It's crowded on a weekday morning. There is no restriction to enter, even though there is a security guard seated by the entrance. Because the gallery is at such a height, it offers the visitor the proximity of seeing the workers carrying out various tasks at one go — some are by the flogging stone, others man mechanical washing machines.

Nicholas Morgan and Alexandra Verini
Nicholas Morgan and Alexandra Verini

The biggest advantage here is that you get to watch them up close, without getting too close. Nicholas Morgan and Alexandra Verini, who have flown down from New York and Delhi respectively, concur. "There are so many colours. We were just talking about how hard it must be to organise tasks. But you see people working and then they look at you, so it feels like a touristy gaze. It definitely encourages you to look at this like it's a scene," Morgan says, with Verini adding, "It's a bit voyeuristic so that's a bit problematic."

But for locals, the real deal is the freeing up of space on the bridge. "The number of tourists has increased; previously they wouldn't flock here in such large numbers because of the parking problem," Shiv Kumar, a college student and resident of the area, says, while Ayad Sheikh, who has been running a laundry business out of Dhobi Ghat for the last 38 years, says that the community is happy with the addition. "The light from the canopy helps while we work at night. But authorities should maintain the cleanliness of this place and install an entry door to keep away troublemakers at night."

Shiv Kumar and Ayad Sheikh
Shiv Kumar and Ayad Sheikh

Report card
Ease of access: Good access from Mahalaxmi station. There's also a bus stop right beside the gallery.
Convenience: The space can hold up to 30 people. When crowded, it may be harder to catch the view.
What's good: A security guard is available at all times. No restriction on photography or videography. Smooth access on a busy bridge.
What isn't: No entry door. Safety and cleanliness concerns could crop up with overuse.

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