One of the unique practices in Mumbai is the lunchtime delivery service provided by dabawallahs. Every workday, couriers dressed in crisp white dhotis and Nehru caps collect thousands of meals prepared by housewives. Each special diet is packed in a standard, coded, stainless steel daba, or lunchbox. The first stage is an early morning pickup at a home in the city suburbs, often hours away from the office. A complex relay system follows, sometimes involving numerous sortings of dabas and their transfer from train station to train station, to cart, even to bicycle and finally on foot, to arrive at the waiting husband’s office. Dabawallahs have an excellent reputation for never mixing up seemingly identical lunchboxes. Given the many restrictions on diet imposed by religion in India, reliability is crucial to the success of this business.

Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra


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