Photographer's Note

Tiffin is an old English word for light meal that was carried to India during the Colonial period. It has become the common term for lunch.

While these two tiffin boxes have been carried to an archaeological dig site similiar boxes are commonly used to send lunch to workers in cities every day.

Office workers in Mumbai leave early in the morning for work and their lunch follows them sometime later in the morning. In the middle of the morning the worker's wife packs his lunch, each 'bowl' containing a different dish. Rice will surely be in one container, dahl in a second. Other compartments may contain curd, pickle, parathas, vegetables, whatever makes up lunch for the day.

Each day some of the 4,000 to 5,000 dabawallahs pick up about 175,000 tiffin boxes at private homes, take them to the train station where they are packed into crates. When the trains reach the city other dabawallahs retrieve the boxes from the train and deliver them to their owners. Later in the day the empty tiffin boxes are retrieved from the offices and make the return trip home, often arriving before the worker.

The tops of the boxes are marked with special color codes which tell the often illiterate dabawallahs where the boxes live and work. The typical error rate is only once in around 8 million deliveries.

Each day over 175,000 tiffin boxes are picked up at the worker's home.

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Additional Photos by Bob Wallace (BobTrips) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 555 W: 343 N: 75] (1857)
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