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.
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