If you loved the movie ‘The Lunchbox’ (and even if you missed it) it’s a real treat to see Mumbai’s dabba-wallah’s in action. Every work day, around 5,000 Dabba-wallahs, collect 150,000-200,000 lunch boxes (‘tiffins’ or ‘dabbas’) from homes and deliver them to offices and schools so that thousands of workers and students can eat home cooked meals. Each layer of the dabba tin contains a different part of the meal, rice, breads, vegetable curry, dahl etc.
Its fascinating to stand outside Churchgate or CST Station in Mumbai at lunchtime and watch the lunches arrive on bikes, handcarts and wooden trays carried on the head and then to be re-sorted according to a coding system that requires no literacy. The collaboration between dabba-wallahs, who not only collect and return dabbas from and to homes across Mumbai, but (at no extra cost) also take any food labelled with a ‘share’ sticker to a food distribution centre for needy people ‘on the way’ is very impressive. Especially when you think that less than one in a thousand lunch boxes ever goes astray.