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Dabbawalas of Mumbai

Dabbawalas of Mumbai

Famed throughout the world for the way they deliver (and pickup) the lunch tiffin tins to over 5000 people a day, they are one of the unique features of Mumbai life. Subscribers pay 500 rupees a month for this service and legend has it their accuracy of delivery is 100%  accurate.

As the assorted wallas pick up the tiffins from hundreds of homes in suburban Mumbai, the main meeting and re-distribution spot is on the pavement opposite Churchgate termini, the main north/south lines in central Mumbai.  So at 11.15am they start to arrive, often carrying dozens of packs on a long tray balanced on their heads. Within 40 minutes the sorting has been completed and the assorted bikes and trolleys set off to deliver the tiffin tins.

However arriving at the same time are two sets of other interested parties. One hundred, sometimes two hundred, tourists show up to marvel at the unique procedure, photograph it of course with their eager tour group leaders explaining the system. They are generally blocking up the pavement, and must be a hindrance to the complicated system of number identification, that is key to the successful delivery. Also in the wake of these tourists come the familiar touts peddling their souvenirs, ranging from magnets, elephant necklaces and the usual silk scarves. So the progress of the tourist is slowed down and inevitably showing any interest triggers an avalanche of offers, which can be taken right up the point of departure on both coach and private car.

Quite when this interest started is not known, but it does offer a different perspective to the usual tourist location, although this has now been partly destroyed by it’s very own popularity.

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