Ha! I’m not going to start this post with a picture, because that would give the game away too quickly. Instead, I’m going to let you guess.
Hint 1: It’s outdoors…
Hint 2: …but NO hard labour. In fact, it’s like playing golf, or what I imagine golf would be like.
Hint 3: It’s not golf; it’s far more useful than golf. Mahatma Gandhi would support this.
Hint 4: It’s clean, it’s green! It uses solar and wind energy most directly and efficiently.
Hint 5: It makes you process all kinds of algorithms (if that’s what one does with algorithms) in your head, and it’s never the same on two consecutive days. Different criteria, leading to different patterns every day.
Hint 6: It looks pretty, especially with the right backdrop. Though some people, even whole towns, believe it shouldn’t be allowed.
Hint 7: It smells good!
Hint 8. Usually, it’s just a few minutes work, morning and evening, but sometimes it has you sprinting like a maniac at odd times during the day.
Hint 9: You get to pit your brains and reflexes against the elements, but it isn’t dangerous. Unless you are specially accident prone.
Hint 10: At the moment, it’s unpaid work. At least this segment of it. But maybe there’s a business opportunity here, like dog walking.
Got it yet? Ok, going to hit you with the last hint!
Yes, it’s drying clothes! Please don’t laugh, it’s the high point of my day. It gets me out (without dragging me here and there to mark territory, lunge at anything that moves, or smell smells that I can’t smell). It’s that lovely time of day when the sun is just coming up and there’s a soft breeze. People who are off to work are off to work, but I can loiter and dream and plan my day. I often think of my grandfather, who we all used to tease about his devotion to drying clothes. Little did I think I would come to this myself!
Did Hint 5 throw you off? Cunning, hanh? But I’m serious! It actually exercises my brain (ok, maybe I don’t have much of a brain) to figure out what to hang where. This is not so much at the farm, but in our Bangalore home, where the clotheslines are overhung by trees. There are only a couple of small patches of sunlight, and only one line which the breeze can reach. That’s where the heaviest clothes go. You have to space and hang the clothes just so, or they won’t dry by evening. To add complexity, two lines are sturdy galvanized iron wire, while the others are fraying old plastic rope that sag and may (and do) give way any time. There’s one good spot above which the crows like to sit. You have to be really daring and desperate (six people in the house and the laundry baskets overflowing) to risk that spot. Undies have preferably to be hung where they’re not in the faces of passersby. Then of course during the monsoons you have to make the most of what sunshine there is. Grabbing the clothes off the line just seconds before it comes down… the feeling that you’ve outwitted the elements… ah! This part is more challenging and exciting at our treeless farm, with an obstacle course between the drying area and the house. (Don’t ask me why they’re on different terraces, it seemed a good idea at the time.) There’s more, but what I’m saying is that this is a process fraught with heavy analysis and decision making. Only you don’t notice it, thanks to the fresh air and the bird song.
It’s horrifying that this noble work, which combines intellectual and physical activity in the gentlest way, is under threat in North America. But it’s heartening that so many people are defending it so strongly. Truly, this job is a gift from the gods!