What Workers Around The World Have For Lunch.
The tiffin lunchbox is one of India’s most successful concepts. It’s a homemade lunch, delivered to office workers who can’t go home for their midday meal, which formed the beginning of the humble lunch box. Also known as dabbas, the delivered lunches come in large circular metal tins that more closely resemble small milk pails. Each dabba comes in two, three or four tiers; the bottom is the largest, with rice, while the others include a curry, a side of vegetables, dal and flatbreads and a dessert. The dabba’s delivery system is incredibly complex, ferrying out an estimated 80 million lunches a year. The delivery system uses dabbawalas – the people who deliver the lunch box – which translates to “one who carries a box.” They’re identified by their white kurta uniforms, topped off with the traditional Gandhi cap, and will often ride bicycles. Every day in India alone, some 200,000 dabbas are moved by an estimated 5,000 dabbawalas, who are most likely illiterate, but who have made the process an efficient breeze for the last 127 years, feeding thousands daily.
Dabbawalas collect the tiffins from the people who made them at around 10 am, often a wife or mother – as India still adheres to gendered roles, where anything up to 30 will be taken on crates and via bicycles through the busy roads to the nearest train station. They are labelled using a system of symbols and colours, denoting where the tiffin is picked up, which station it will be sent to and the final address of the owner, all hand painted. The tiffins then travel on the city’s train network where at the other end the local dabbawalas pick them up for the last leg of the journey – the lunchtime delivery, which is never late. As well as being delivered, the dabbas are also returned too. Post-lunch the whole system is reversed, and thankfully a little lighter. Credit: Emma Henderson for Independent.
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