Poem: Foreign Laundry

by | Jan 23, 2019 | Communities

By: Rohini Guttina

Uncertain about the place,
Naive about the language,
Unstable about people,

Well, all these are negative connotations that have been slowly making their space in my head. But as its said change comes with beauty when embraced. Today’s small laundry exploring led to something very strong which straightened my concepts.
With all sorts of impressions, I set out for a walk to the supermarket. As I return home and go for a wash, to my left-hand side I see a pile of clothes stacked in a bucket, pregnant with dirt and screaming for a cleanup.

That’s where the surprise sets in.

I switch on my phone to browse the laundry stores near me. It gives me an option called ‘Reinigung,‘ which shows a km away. I leave with my headphones and google maps in search of this place. A sixteen-minute walk uphill through a deserted road, I thought google maps is pointing wrong. But I’ve realized I’m wrong. As I take the left which leads to the place full of gardens, lakes; I was wondering about my whereabouts. I couldn’t spot a board or even a sign which read ‘Laundry’.
Finally, I see this woman praying and took the opportunity to disturb her! I walk to the woman. With my broken German, I ask “Hallo, sprichst Du Englisch?” (Hello, do you speak English)
To which she replies “Yes I speak…” adding a warm smile.
I took a breather. Slowly walked toward her and asked “where is this laundry service thing. My map points here and I don’t find any?!” To which she points to a house beside and says “it is a bureau but you can always find out if they take in the laundry.” I walk to the house and press the third button. An old man, aged 60 opens the door. Again, I say “Um English?” He understood but couldn’t reply. He guided me inside. I find a gentleman in formal and warm eyes approach me with a smile saying Hallo. I greeted back with a “Hallo hope you speak English.” He says yes I do. I told him about how I came up with their ad on Google and walked uphill to find the same.  “We have dry cleaning but big things and expensive ones, not laundry.” Then I told him about myself. “You mentioned you are from India?” I nodded in approval. I see his eyes glitter and with excitement came out those words! “My wife is from India, Maharashtra, and we are married from eighteen years. Wait let me phone her.”

He phoned her and after a while, this woman walked in with a smile and greeted. We exchanged a couple of conversations, and then we moved into her house from the office, and she told me about her family and sister in Bangalore. She served me some strong coffee and a lot of other information. A strong cup of conversation.

She shared a few snippets from her life. We were speaking for hours long and the bond was slowly forming. After a while, she told me about a Punjabi who runs the Pizza store near my house. As she mentioned that, I danced inside, of course giving a stable façade to her though. And the conversation brewed. She mentioned how we can go together to the supermarket and organize a get together for the Indians in the village.

When I observe the entire situation, I’m surprised at how slowly the events are unraveling and how the place is opening up to me. Feels like a magnetic pull.

Just like the weather, it feels fresh.
Like their people, it feels warm,
Like their hospitality, it feels light and clear.
And as lovely and lively as their flowers.

Being open, indeed opens things up for us.
And that’s why I believe in the saying:  “There are no foreign lands it’s just the traveler who is foreign.”

I packed my laundry bag with ne wmemories and washed away stereotypes.


Held it and left for home.