In a simple room in old Fort Kochi, Kerala, a young man is gradually transforming himself. In one hand he holds a small mirror; in the other the fine brush with which he applies paint to his face. An audience of tourists watches agog, cameras flashing, phones held aloft.
At the Dhobi Khana in Fort Cochi, Kerala, nothing much has changed since the first Tamil dhobis were brought in by the Dutch Army 300 years ago to wash their uniforms. Today it is still operated by descendants of those original families, who live and work here as they have done for generations.