Clothesline ‘satyagraha’

Didn’t think, did you, that hanging out your laundry in the backyard or balcony is such a big deal. It is, for residents in Aurora, an upscale Ontario suburb, where outdoor-clotheslines, seen as an eyesore, are banned by law. The New York Times reports that a local citizen group there has taken to hanging laundary to dry out in people’s backyards, as an act of ‘civil disobedience’.
Not, perhaps, in the same league as Gandhiji’s Dandi March,  but a ‘satyagrah’ it is nonetheless, to assert citizens’ right to do their own thing with their laundary, within the confines of their own homes. Their fight for the ‘right to dry’ their laundary is no small matter, considering the ban on outdoor clotheslines has been in place in North America and parts of Europe for over three decades.
Homeowners and real-estate developers in the West reckon clotheslines on home fronts are not in keeping with the upscale lifestyle. Houses with no clothesline are inconceivable in middle-class India.  I haven’t been to Palm Meadows or other dollar-driven townships in Bangalore’s Whitefield. It is understandable if people’s thinking there is in line with the Western mindset on matters of lifestyle esthetics.
At our apartments complex in Mysore the estate developer has provided clotheslines on the terrace, in a bid to discourage residents of flats from hanging their clothes to dry in balconies facing the road. But I don’t see how he can enforce his wish on those who see nothing strange in putting their laundry out to dry.
Anyway, the clothesline satyagrahis in the west seeking to overturn the ban have an enviornmental agenda. Their point is electric dryer uses up as much energy as a fridge; and clothesline isn’t just energy saving, it effects a sizeable cutback in carbon emission. In developed countries household appliances account for a quarter of their total carbon emissions.
If pro-clothesline activists get the legal ban overturned, half the battle would be won. But victory over the other half, and a more significant half of the battle, can come only with behavioural changes. Those who put esthetics above environment; and continue to opt for electric dryers, rather than the clothesline, ought to pay for their carbon emissions. Proceeds from this should be spent on eco-friendly projects in the developing world, where clotheslines are the norm and electric dryers have not been  as an option for even those who can afford them. Washing machines sold here don’t usually come with an electric dryer.

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3 Responses

  1. There’s only so much legislation a state can pass. Bully for the laundry satyagrahis!
    Clothes hanging from balconies look pathetic, and buildings should provide hanging spaces. But a back yard with a clothes-line fluttering in the breeze is something else– an image from childhood!
    A funny thing comes to mind — the Hindi film heroine bringing in laundry and singing a coy love song into her husband/lover’s shirt!.

  2. GVK, When I read about this in ‘The Hindu’, I was quite indignant… to me it seemed commonsense to dry clothes while the sun shines, and we have all been doing it for ages, with or without a washing machine, haven’t we?

  3. Hanging clothes from the balcony is hideous and spoils the view. Many high end apartments in Bangalore have banned it. why not hang from the rear balcony, or get a drying stand whose level is lower than the balcony railing? This way, the clothes cannot be seen from the outside.

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