Ramanujan and the Mixed-Up Washing

(Also suitable for Racial Harmony/ National Day)

Rama is a young dhobi who works with his Uncle Ganesan, washing other peoples clothes. Uncle Ganesan has given Rama a special task of doing the laundry of the two big Chinese houses on the corner. If Rama does a good job, those collections will belong to him permanently and he can earn enough money to be independent and take care of his family. He arrives at the larger, white bungalow and nervously listens while the mojie in charge gives him instructions. He collects the laundry and is off. Arriving at the river, where some of the dhobis are already working, Rama finds himself a space and opens his bundles. He cannot read or write, just like most dhobis. To separate their washing, they each have a code to mark out which piece of clothing belongs to whom. Some scratch their codes onto a rock or a stick: others etch it into the mud. Rama carefully etched his code in the mud and sets about washing the clothes in the river. When it started to rain, Rama panicked and grabs all the laundry, accidently mixing it up. When the rain stops, the hapless young dhobi is saved by his Uncle Ganesan, who shows him how to scratch markings into a stick with a knife, and to use a different stick for each pile of laundry. Rama re-washed all the fabrics and managed to deliver the laundry to the big, white bungalow on time. The majie is impressed. She pays Rama and tells him to come back the following week. Rama is overjoyed! Over the next few years, Rama is able to establish a successful laundry business for himself, and to take care of his mother and four siblings. This show touches on Singapore’s history and culture, community lifestyles to preserve racial harmony, resiliency after a set back and working towards building a bright future.