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Soon, the dabbawalas will not only give up lunch, they will cook it too | India News


The 60-year-old Yamnaji Ghule is a worried man. The second-generation dabbawala isn’t sure what to make of his future coming out of a pandemic that dealt a blow to his decades-long vocation of delivering cooked lunches to Mumbai office goers.
The world of lunchbox carriers has been very tough, constantly reinventing itself, English lessons, computer literacy, women entering the men’s stronghold. Now, modern dabbawala await another change: They will no longer just give up lunch, but will cook if asked.
They will prepare a seven-day rotating menu of homemade lunches in a “cloud kitchen” in Saki Naka, aimed at time-hungry millennials. “Some of our dabbawalas and their wives are currently being trained by a food and beverage expert and we should launch our service in mid-June,” said Ritesh Andre, 25, a fourth generation dabbawala with an MBA degree.
Mumbai ‘s 130-year-old dabba distribution fleet has been a legendary workforce of 5,000 tiffin shippers, collecting food from home cooks and delivering it to two lakhs of office assistants on their bikes and on local trains. “We have overcome the worst situations… but we have never seen anything like this before. My team of seven dabbawalas used to make about 20 deliveries in a day, but now, no more than four, ”said veteran tiffinwala who had returned to his village in Pune to farm for the first eight months of Covid.
“I’ve been doing this for over 40 years, it’s the only job I know of,” Ghule worries. As Covid changed the culinary culture, the delivery of hot lunches that would cost dabbawalas Rs 14,000 to 20,000 per month was suddenly reduced to zero.
After the closure, 3,000 dabbawalas withdrew to their places of origin. “When the offices started opening last June, we were able to restart our services but with 300-400 dabbawalas. Now, in the second lockdown, there is work for only 100-150, ”explained Ulhas Shantaram Muke, president of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust.
But there is no going back. “We are creating a website where people can place their orders directly. You can choose between monthly or yearly subscriptions and we are also introducing online money transfer, ”says Andre. “The idea is to use their unique sorting skills to diversify, create jobs, provide stability and pride in what is the oldest food delivery chain in India.”

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