A laundry which led to long lasting friendships

Why this 68-year-old Chinese dry cleaner shop is an adda for all age groups

By Author   |   Published: 24th Sep 2017   12:10 am Updated: 24th Sep 2017   12:13 am

There is no doubt that the Secunderabad area is one of the oldest areas in the city. Many historians have sweet memories attached to this place. There are lots of Irani chai addas, the Sangeeth Theater, Nanking hotel here.

But as the city developed and these places underwent renovations, most of them became a memory. However, there are a few shop centers which people recognise immediately and prefer to visit. One such place is The Shanghai Dry Cleaners.

Established in the year 1949 by Yu Pai Chuan, a migrant from China, his son Peter Yu King, runs the laundry in Secunderabad and is the treasurer of the Chinese Association in the twin cities. “My father Yu Pai Chuan, belonged to Shandong. He came to India by ship along with 30 others and landed in Madras. He liked the atmosphere of the country and decided to stay here. I am continuing this as a family tradition. This is the only Chinese laundry in the city,” reminisces Peter Yu.

Peter with Sarah at the screening of the film held at Goethe Zentrum. Photo: Arun Shetty

Shan means mountain, while dong means east, the Shandong community is known for shoe making and laundry services. So it was natural for the family to continue the tradition in the country. When one thinks of dry cleaners, there is a general feeling that they might not be educated, but the owner Peter Yu King is an MBA graduate from the 1976 batch in Osmania University and fluent English.

The shop is open from morning 9 am till evening 9 pm, but the smile remains consistent on his face. “All my friends keep visiting me here every day, they take turns, we all meet, chat about politics and films, have an Irani chai and snacks. We also share forgotten memories, all this keep us healthy,” says Peter. On any given day, don’t be surprised to find people of all age groups standing near the shop.

It’s what made a UK-based photographer and filmmaker Sarah Li to make a film about his shop. Having come to the city in search of her roots, she landed at her maternal uncle Peter’s place.

Seeing the camaraderie between her uncle and his friends, she made the 28-minute film ‘Shanghai Dry’, shot over 15 days. “The main idea to cover this particular laundry was that they are related to us, Yu King’s father and my grandfather were the people who started this business here and my mom was in touch with our relatives. I love India as it is very colourful, and I captured the pictures of common life here. Then I thought why not do a short film on the daily life. It was screened at the Goethe Zentrum and received lot of appreciation. Now I am planning to screen this film in UK film festivals and galleries,” says Sarah who is planning to capture the Bathukamma and is working on another short film at the moment.