Dishwashers--The American 'Bai'

(I blogged about Dishwashers a while ago. It is as relevant today as it was in 2008, did some corrections on typos though. I will add that today the boy friend brought in by a daughter would be asked to load the dishwasher machine to see whether he qualifies as a future husband....  Nidhi ,Sept 2017  )

Dishwashers in India are mostly the living kind, known as 'Bai' in Pune, even though they are expected to work like machines. I recall that while at my uncles' in Bombay, I was eleven, I was asked at dinner to eat fast as 'Rama' would be there anytime. I had no clue as to what they were talking about, but hurry up I did. Soon discovered that Rama was the contract dish washer, who walked in at 9 PM, worked super fast as evidenced by the noise he made while dealing with the metallic vessels. (Using ceramics was not used in our orthodox families.) Time was the essence of his contract and if we were not ready, too bad, he would wash whatever was there and move on.

I remember that Periamma, my grandmother, would wash vessels she used for her cooking and her dinner plate separately! It was a bit different for us, we were expected to wash our dinner plates, but a maid would wash the cooking vessels. It was sometimes my lot to rinse these vessels after the maid had washed them and stack them in the kitchen to dry. While I would do this grudgingly I did not even remotely imagine that there were machines out there to take care of this uninspiring chore!

My first encounter with the Dishwasher was at Cindy’s parents home back in 1969. I was tutored before I went to the States that if invited for dinner at an American home, you were not to just wash your hands and relax after dinner. You were expected to wash the dishes as well! So, after dinner while there was no need to wash my hands, I dutifully picked up my plates and the cutlery to the sink and washed them clean and looked around for a rack to keep them! Jean who was watching my heroic effort suggested that I put them in the dishwasher. I had no clue as to where the blessed thing was until she pulled down the door and I saw the insides of the dishwasher for the first time! I placed the plate on a rack and that was that! I wondered why she wanted me to put the clean plate there, but I assumed that this was as good a place as any for the dishes to dry!

The story would have ended here if I did not to manage the dishwasher at Nandini’s home in Seattle after Neil's (Saarung) arrival! I was irritating my cousin Prasad visiting us at Seattle with endless ‘how to’ (My dishes don’t get clean!) questions about the dishwasher. Luckily for him he saw a program on dishwashers on the TV and called me to watch it to get my answers! Before I could get there it was almost the end and I could not get much out of it except that dishwashers was a serious subject for study!

I spied on how others were loading and managing their dishwashers. I discovered there were as many ways as there were people! Some loaded dishes till the dishwasher literally choked, while others were gentler. A few rinsed vessels with hot water before loading (note this: not after the wash as I used to do at home!) and others in cold water and a few not at all.

I can see the day when a prospective mother-in-law, assuming she still holds sway, asking the potential daughter- in-law to load the dishwasher to check her personality traits and the culture of her family! (Will be different today!) It could also become an area of potential conflict. I have seen that some vessels do not get cleaned in spite of the prior rinsing. I have a suspicion that the dishwasher has a diabolical sense of humor and throws up a bit of the muck it has retained.

Here is a quote from a piece I saw on the internet. It is really sweet and will surely appeal to all the young mothers who chose to live in the US.
There is a Banana in My Dishwasherby Jacquelyn deLaveaga
"Other than reading to my children, I couldn't think of any one thing that I engaged in on a regular basis - so where was my time going? That's when I saw it. The banana in my dishwasher. Half-peeled, sitting in the silverware tray. What is that doing there? I thought as I pulled it out, wondering whether to toss it in the trash or save it for banana bread. Then, my two-year-old son walked over and said, "That's mine," and took it from my hand.
"Did you put it in the dishwasher?" I asked him.
"Yes," he replied.
"Why?" I asked (silly question).
"It's yucky," he assured me.
Next, he reached into the dishwasher and grabbed a wooden spoon that was still covered with chocolate-zucchini cake batter and started banging it against a kitchen chair, sending cake batter splattering all over the walls. "Ahhh!" I exclaimed as I grabbed it from his hand. "Messy, very messy," I instructed him. He simply smiled a very accomplished smile at me and moved into the living room where he had a small saucepan sitting on top of the humidifier fan."

Now from serious stuff:

I learnt the way the various plates and vessels are to be placed. (For some it is an art form and for others it is as rigid as a ritual!). There was also the embarrassment of discovering in the morning that the detergent was forgotten while starting the dishwasher or certain type of glasses were ruined because they had to be hand-washed! I loved the way the ceramic wares shone after the wash, looking as good as new! The same cannot be said of steel vessels and loading plastics into the washer is a waste of water and detergent! I loved unloading a dish washer as it is a form of therapy. Especially if you do it early in the morning when the rest of the family is asleep! I find it as sooting as a morning prayer!

I researched on the net and was surprised that the automatic dishwasher was invented by a woman named Josephine Garis Cochrane! She received an award for her invention at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. She designed the machine for the Hotel Industry but today it is practically in every home in the US and is about 2 Billion dollars a year business in machines alone. Detergents are specially made and adds further to the business.

I am sure she made the life of an average American much better and deserves a place amongst the great inventors. A machine if invented in India would have been deified on Dussera day and she as the creator would certainly be a goddess! (Or may be not, as the machine would only replace a lowly paid Bai.) Curiously I saw an ad for a 'dishwasher' on the web and the salary was about nine dollars per hour. That would cover my one round of golf at the pitch and putt!

If you desire to browse the net there is an enormous amount of Technical and Customer service data (e.g.,“The single most important factor in getting good results is HOT WATER!!”) that would certainly further your knowledge (Veda) on how the machine is being continuously improved to make it almost human!

There is also an astonishing report made in the year 2001 by a Management consultant appointed by one of the States to research the subject of dishwashers and its use, amazingly after more than a century of its invention. It was reported (quoting from my memory)  that before loading a dishwasher 40% of users rinse thoroughly, 35% rinse reasonably and the rest do not rinse at all! I remember the study was made to estimate power and water consumption patterns!

While I do not want to dwell more on all the gems I discovered on the web about dishwashers (may be I will for a small fee!)


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