Monday, 25 March 2013

Dabbawala | The Perennial Plate

I would really love the opportunity of following one of these dabbawallas for a day, and documenting his journey with stills and audio!

The word "Dabbawala" in Marathi when literally translated, means "one who carries a box".  In Mumbai, 5000 dabbawallas deliver around 200,000 lunches every day from people's homes to offices, and are members of the officious-sounding Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. They are said to follow the the Varkari sect of Hinduism, and whose doctrine is the eagerness to serve others.

The concept of the dabbawala started in Mumbai during the Raj as many of the British bureaucrats and officials did not like the local food, and a service was set up to bring lunch (boiled potatoes and roast?) to them in their workplace directly from their homes. 

When the dabbawallas first started, a complex coding system of coloured threads and cloths was used, then this evolved to coloured paint, and now it's an alphanumeric code (which you can see in a sequence of the movie). The delivery system is highly dependent on Mumbai's railway lines as well as on bicycles..

The dabbawallas have been conducting the service for the last 125 years and incredibly have an error margin of just one in six million!

The Atlantic has more information of the dabbawallas.

The Perennial Plate is an online weekly documentary series documenting socially responsible and adventurous eating. Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine travel the world exploring the wonders, complexities and stories behind the ever more connected global food system.