India

Did you know the history of Mumbai’s famous Dabbawalas?

They truly are the connecting dot for the city’s working class.

Dabbawalas are termed to be the lifeline of the city of Mumbai, and rightly so because the maximum population of the city is dependent on them to receive their lunch. Clad in their white shirt and pajamas, the traditional Marathi cap, and their trademark cloth on the shoulder to wipe the sweat. To put it simply, dabbawalas are tiffin wallahs whose job includes delivering hot lunch boxes from homes and restaurants to people at work in Mumbai.

The journey of a dabbawala starts early in the morning when he prepares for his day by getting ready and leaving home to reach the area for picking the lunches. Upon reaching the area of work, the dabbawalas start picking up lunch boxes by late morning when they are freshly packed from the kitchen. Then using a bicycle or through the local trains with all the tiffin stacked up, they set out on the run to deliver a hot lunch box. Their duty doesn’t end here, as, by late afternoon, they start picking up the empty lunch boxes and delivering them back to their source.

The glorious history of the lunch delivery man of Mumbai

It all started in the late 1800s in Bombay when it was on the verge of becoming the financial capital of India. According to history, some 125 years ago a Parsi banker had a strong urge to have home-cooked hot food served in the office. This desire led to the banker paying a man to deliver him food from his home. This is where the idea of the tiffin delivery system picked up in Bombay and became popular.

By this time, the city was also being flocked with a rising number of people from different parts of the country to work in the mills and offices. These people began their say early in the morning by leaving home early, and would often go hungry for lunch. Seeing great potential in this tiffin run, in 1890 a man called Mahadeo Havaji Bachche took this concept seriously and gave it a shape. Bachche began his lunch delivery service with about a hundred men, which proved successful leading to growth in this business.

Though in 1930 he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawalas, later in 1956 it was registered as a charitable trust under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. And in 1968 the commercial arm of this trust was registered as Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association.

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