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nostalgia and washing clothes

The clothes were scrubbed against the washboard to remove the stains and grime.

indigoHow nice it is to drop a load of laundry in the washing machine, then go back to the book or TV, relax, while the laundry is being done! In the days before washing machines were affordable and widespread, lots of elbow grease were required on laundry day. Here’s an except from my upcoming book “Kampung Memories”:

“In those days, laundry was done manually or completely by hand. Washing machines were not in the picture at all. Most households had a person designated to do all the laundry, or often a washer-woman offered her service to the households.

The woman would come to the house several times week to do the laundry. I remember we once had a washer-woman who was quite a fascinating character. She was a stout lady, friendly but did not talk much. She often rolled a cigarette after she had done her washing, stood with one hand on her hips and smoked while seemingly lost in her thoughts. Even as a kid, I could see that she was a tough lady, not easily intimidated or ordered around.

One of the laundry items that caught my attention and imagination as a child was nila or indigo, a product that makes white clothes whiter and brighter. At that time, not only schoolchildren wore white shirts and blouses, many men also wore white shirts to work.

Nila was sold as a blue-colored soap bar. You cut a small slice and mixed it in a pail of water. It would turn the water a bright blue, and I enjoyed waiting for that “magical” moment. The white clothes which had been washed would be dipped in the blue water for a final rinse, then hung on the clothesline to dry.”


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