Starchy Blue

26 May

Why do people do such weird things to their clothes? And then insist on doing the same to mine? Like, for instance, this stubborn belief that soaking white items of clothing in a vat of blue dye will magically turn it white.

You know how they show all those detergent ads where people walk around emitting light out of their newly washed clothes? Right, so you know that is some serious bullshit going on because no matter how many brands you switch or how closely you follow the instructions, your whites are never going to emerge from the wash sparkling like diamonds or mimicking a light source.  You know that. But where do all those blue dye people get the balls to pull the same stunt?

What genius looked at a dull white shirt one day and thought, “Ha, you know what this needs to make it all bright and shiny like new? Blue dye!”

You know what happens when you soak a white shirt in a bucket full of faintly blue water? You end up with a faintly blue shirt. You know what is the definition of “white”? Well, it sure as hell ain’t eggshell blue! Can you not tell the difference?

It’s one thing to do it to school uniforms, kitchen towels and uncle-ji’s Wednesday office shirt. But must you do it to my camisole tops? And it smells. Don’t tell me it doesn’t – it smells. It smells like wet. And no amount of cologne, deodorant, hairspray, other perfumed chemical can mask it. If you do manage to kill it somehow, it’ll crawl up your nose and die in there so you will smell it all day and know exactly what was done to your clothes even if other people don’t.

And talking of smell: you know what else I don’t understand? Starch. The only good thing starch ever did was to the potato. Yum. But why would you want to pour essence of potato over your clothes so that they could stand up on their own? I don’t want my clothes to get up and walk out of my cupboard. I want them to stay where I put them and not make noises when I walk.

I understand they make your cotton sarees look good. Well, maybe “understand” is taking things a little too far. I’ve seen women go to war against their beloved cottons to emerge victoriously, looking like puffballs and I don’t understand it at all. I must be missing some crucial female gene.

But. My t-shirts. Why would you soak them in starch just because they were cotton and white? Not even the elderly uncles who play badminton at the crack of dawn at the sports club starch their polo necks!

And there’s my dad who washes things in the washing machine. A day when he doesn’t get to wash things in the washing machine is like a day without internet access to me.

“Do you have anything to wash?” he’ll ask hopefully.


“I’m washing things. You can put your things in with my things.”

“I have nothing.”

“What is this?”

“My jeans.”

“You should wash them occasionally.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you when the occasion comes.”

Pause. “What is this?”

“My shirt.”

“It’s been lying out here gathering dust for weeks. You should wash it.”

“What’re you talking about? I wore it just yesterday.”

“I don’t know.” He wrinkles his nose and stares down at it. “The presswallah comes tomorrow and if we wash it today, we can get it ironed tomorrow.”

“Thanks but I’ll just put it in the dryer and it’ll be fine.”

I’ve made several unconventional decisions in my life and all my dad has ever said to me are words of encouragement. But everytime I refuse to let him wash my clothes… it’s like stomping on a child who asked for a cookie. It is his ultimate housekeeping skill and I’m the ingrate that won’t let him be the good father he is. And that is how my shirt goes into the wash with the rest of his clothes and comes out happily bedecked with lint. His clothes remain perfectly intact yet half their fabric finds itself as fuzz on mine. It is some sort of miracle expressly designed to aggravate me to an early grave. At least he knows to separate.

Sometimes I miss the days when all I had to worry about was my grandma’s maid beating the everloving hell out of my clothes in an effort to get it clean. Sure, my clothes never lasted beyond the summer. But at least she knew better than to soak it in substances unless specifically directed to do so, and never let colors bleed on each other.


Posted by on May 26, 2010 in Life, Personal, Video


Tags: , , , ,

21 responses to “Starchy Blue

  1. vellai_puli

    May 26, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    And I thought no one uses Robin Blue any longer!!

  2. mayank

    May 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    in some geography class that i attended some time, they said something stupid like:
    yellow = red + green
    yellow + blue = red + green + blue = white

    Even i wonder though why did they choose blue for god sake…..purple would have been definitely better…what say??

    disclaimer: I am colour blind (seriously, officially)…anything stated above is bookish knowledge and doesn’t stem from any illuminating white light experience that I ever had. Also I hope you would mind my disability before retorting to this.

    • Blue A.

      May 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      mayank: I think they also teach this stuff in first grade, when they tell you all about primary colors, pattern recognition and such. But I guess some of us tuck all of that awesomeness away someplace safe until Total Recall time, two or three decades hence! 😀

      Your mention of Yellow + Blue = White promptly takes me to “Hum Tum”, particularly the rain song “Saanson ko saanson mein”, where there’s this elderly gent playing the piano as his anglo-Indian wife towers over him lovingly… And outside their shop hangs a big Blue sign with “Sleight of Hand Confectionery” painted on it, in Yellow.

  3. Blue Aieeee

    May 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Ah the dreaded Robin Blue — it was my dad’s best friend! He had this weekend afternoon regimen of undie-washing. The whole week’s worth of inside wear got the outside treatment: Dad hovered over the big washing stone in the backyard, beside the well, giving his white set The Robin Blue treatment (but not before having every fiber of their being scrubbed to the skies and back first, using Rin or Surf). And yes, this was way back when, growing up in Madras.

    The backyard clothesline was ALL HIS, come Sunday — all his tighty whities neatly lined on one end, the banians on the other, merrily fluttering in the breeze, enjoying the sun. I’m sure the neighbors rolled their eyes intially before resigning to the ritual over the years. I mean, it’s one thing to have a couple of undies on display amid the saris, blouses, skirts, tops, pants… but to have ’em “paraded” out like that, all at once… It was Independence Day at ours, every Sunday. 😀

    Maybe you should try the following with your dad:

    Dad: “Give me your suit.”

    You: “Nahiiiin!! The suit and I are one!”

    I call it the Iron Man line (and yes, your presswallah would be proud). 😛

  4. Gradwolf

    May 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Eh really? Starch for t-shirts? Who does that!

  5. dipali

    May 26, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I think The Laundry Blues would make a fab title!
    Many sympathies.
    The only blue used in my house is what the nurse puts on my Dad’s ancient pyjamas. I don’t think it helps one bit:(

  6. A&N

    May 27, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Wow, you’re really pissed about this. Even if it doesn’t help, I’m like your dad 😀 I like to make FULL use of resources. I don’t starch or use blue dye stuff though!

  7. DewdropDream

    May 27, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Oh gosh! I haven’t used starch in AGES and I have a weekly thing of going ‘My white shirts really need to be starched’ and then forgetting till the next week again. Rinse and repeat (:D).

    I don’t know how the hell this blue dye thing works … but I’m willing to give it a shot if it keeps em whites shiny. I’m tired of tired looking whites.

    — Disgruntled housekeep

  8. Bala

    May 27, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Seriously, can you do something about that white light in the right hand corner ? I end up with a headache everytime I look in that direction 😀 And oh , all dads seem to have the same cleaning fetish .Since mine is in Chennai , there is also the added threat of there not being enough water on another day to wash 😀

  9. Broom

    May 27, 2010 at 10:35 am

    OMG! Our dads must have been separated in Kumbh Mela or something. He LOOOOOOOOVES to wash & iron. Especially to Iron. He’s the ultimate Dhobi – or maybe, IRON MAN!

  10. Katyayni

    May 27, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Oh Dear! This reminds me of those days when the maid would hang my white Robin Blue soaked shirt on to the drying lines, and the sun would bleach one side clear! So, I’d eng up with a dual colored shirt… the back would be a blue and the front a wishy washy white! (btw, the Robins are still very much in vogue).
    I loved the post… and btw, your dad reminds me very much of my grandmother who at 60 still insists on washing all the clothes (gasp) by hands and yeah, plenty of times while growing up I found that a certain dress I’d set my heart on wearing to a certain party would be fluttering very prettily on the wash line… beaten (and dyed blue) from the loving ministrations of a loving grandmother!
    Hilarious post! I LUHVED it!!!!! 😀

  11. Katyayni

    May 27, 2010 at 11:18 am

    end* (oops)!

  12. memsaab

    May 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Ha ha! My dad couldn’t ever tell the difference between the washer and the dryer. Your mom is a lucky woman 🙂

  13. pitu

    May 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    GRRRRRRRRR! You just reminded me of this ghastly teenage memory. My mom had *finally* agreed to buy me bras despite my being a complete omelette (I was feeling left out and all my female classmates showed off about wearing bras) and so on summer vacay to London, she picked up tons of the prettiest lacy things from Harrod’s. Gorgeous stuff even if it was totally unnecessary for boyishly built me.. but I was so happy to finally be ‘part of the club’ 😛 Then later that year we make our annual trip to India and my nani gives the maid my stuff to wash. The maid put that BLUE SHIT ALL OVER MY PRISTINE BRAS!!!!!!!!!!!! It was horrible! I threw such a tantrum!!!! GRRRRRRRRRR! Since then, laundry time in India was strictly monitored by my mom 😀

    And that starch obsession some ladies have, hey Bhagwaan. This Bong lady I know in Mumbai only wears those Calcutta saris (that Tantuja type or whatever it’s called) – she must go through gallons of starch!

    • Shivani

      May 28, 2010 at 11:30 am

      Omlettes ?!?! Hahaha…died laughing. Friday made, weekend made. Thanks, Pitu 😀

      • pitu

        May 28, 2010 at 7:27 pm


  14. Banno

    May 28, 2010 at 3:41 am

    🙂 Hmm, I’d forgotten all about starch and Robin Blues. Poor you.

  15. Shivani

    May 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Can you ask your dad if he had a separated twin? Mine is *obsessed* with shoving stuff into the machine. Like that’s his mission of the day. He takes it as a personal failure if the machine is not loaded to it’s full capacity. And also if the dhobi has less than 5 clothes to iron for the day (from us). He has, on various occasions, been responsible for my mum’s apron, petticoat & my umm.. my underwear mysteriously disappearing from the house & reappearing the next morning in the dhobi bundle :-/

    Will N-E-V-E-R understand the Indian obsession with neel. Tide was the first non-blue detergent cake to be launched here & I happily ditched the ever-present Rin for the cream-coloured tikiya. I mean who the hell wants little gobs of blue on their bra ?

    And someone starched your t-shirts? Is the person still alive? We don’t get good t-shirts here so I guard my precious few better than my grandmom maintained her paithani sarees. If any poor sod were ever to starch them, he/she’d be lucky to escape alive but definitely be looking for dentures.

    PS: sorry for the essay 😛

  16. Amrita

    May 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    @ V_P – my mother says it’s making a “comeback”. I wonder where it went because its never left our house.

    @ Mayank – you’ll be happy to know that “Ujala” believes in the power of purple the same as you! 😀 So now there are tons of people walking around with faintly violet clothes instead of blue. Argh!

    @ BA – and now I have coffee all over my keyboard! So thanks for that! :mrgreen:

    @ Adithya – crazy people!

    @ Dipali – it would! I’m sad I didnt think of it 😦 And thank you!

    @ A&N – hee, once I started it all came pouring out! DON”T TOUCH MAH CLOTHES!

    @ 3D – It won’t wake up your tired whites! It’ll turn them blue! 😡

    @ Bala – I feel your pain – I have to see it every single day :mrgreen: but the only option is to junk the current background. Which I will do eventually when this one bores me but right now I’m still recovering from all the fiddling I did last month. Suffer it for a little while more. Good things will come, I promise.

    @ Broom – Our fathers need to join a club! 😀 My dad won’t iron, because he has this presswallah who comes home and does it for him to his strict instructions (with one of those old fashioned coal scuttle things yet! its hilarious!). But in emergencies, he won’t let my mom or any of the maids or myself touch iron to his clothes. He’ll do it himself, one loving half hour over each pant leg, adjusting the steam valve, re-adjusting it, pausing to admire it… my dad’s a trip.

    @ Katyayani – That is such a familiar visual to me! 😀 How many kids did I see like that? How many of them was me? 😦

    @ Memsaab – He LOVES it. Sometimes it goes on the fritz and he walks around glowering at people who aren’t similarly depressed.

    @ Pitu – AHAHHAA!! I also have had the blue bra experience. God, you just reminded me of the pale yellow one that was my first “fancy” bra and how it got ruined beyond belief while I was at school one day. RAGE! However, now my mother doesn’t rifle through my room picking up whatever clothing she feels like, to be handled in whatever way she deems fit.

    @ Banno – 😦

    @ Shivani – lol, the number of Kumbh mein bichchde hue bros my dad has on this board are amazing! Is this some kind of new uncle trend? If so, I’m calling it first! Essay away! 🙂 I enjoyed reading it!

  17. Reema

    July 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    my mom too has this thing for blue dye and many whites clothes have been sacrificed in the process to achieve the eternal glory of being as white as shown in the ad 😦

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