Two Hours to Dinner!! NN

This is almost a non-topic for me. No reflection on the person who has suggested it. I find it difficult to gather the necessary motivation to develop it since I do not eat a normal dinner these days.

It was not always like this. We not only have a frugal dinner in the good old days, but had to host and attend dinner parties as a part of my organisational culture. If I didn’t, I would have been an outcaste. To trick the heavy intake at these dinners, I always had my minimal food at home before leaving for a dinner party, or before my guests arrived. I nibbled at the snacks with my juice and minimally loaded my plate and pretended to eat, spending my time in pointless conversations, before dumping the plate. Generally dinner was served 2 hours after the party began. This was always a painful waiting time for me. The wait for dinner depends not so much on how many hours it is before dinner, as how long it is after lunch and what kind of lunch you have eaten. 

Unlike most westerners who are happy with coffee and sandwiches, Indians and the French are very particular about their lunch which is their main meal of the day. But unlike the French, Indians are generally fast eaters.  Most Indians are also snackers in the evenings and for them dinner is only a formality. After heavy snacks (also called Tiffin) people prefer to skip dinner altogether.

You may have heard of the dabbawallahs of Mumbai who for a century and more have unfailingly  carried home lunch to thousands of office workers from the highest to the lowest ranks, day after day in lunch boxes kept warm inside an exclusive numbered outer container provided by the the porters’ cooperative society. These porters were the first manual equivalent of google location maps with optimal mix of modes of transport. They delivered food packages like the postal system. 

A man collects the lunch at your doorstep which could be upto 30 km from your office, and takes it to the nearest suburban rail station. The boxes are sorted out there and placed in crates, based on the station they have to be unloaded. Teams of men carry these lots and unload them at various stations.

Another team then sorts out the boxes according to the streets that they are destined for. Finally the boxes are carried by specially designed push carts and push bikes  to individual offices and delivered on time to each individual ion each floor. When the lunch has been consumed, empty containers are delivered back to homes for reversing the same cycle. Astonishingly there are no errors committed in this whole operation although Mumbai is a sprawling overcrowded city with huge traffic congestion. The Dabba wallahs’ Cooperative collects a very affordable fee and distributes it to individual members. The system is fair equitable to all.  No strikes, no fights. A model of decent democracy, unlike what we are witnessing elsewhere. 

The performance of the dabba wallahs has attracted world wide attention for their error free Six Sigma performance. The workers are from rural areas, wear white dhoti, white caps and simple slippers. They have very little formal education. In days when low price hygienic eateries did not exist, office workers had the luxury of eating home cooked healthy lunch catering to individual taste. What is more, they paid very little for this service. For them it was 2 hours or less to lunch from the time their household prepared it. There were no strikes or disruptions except when train services were disrupted.

Now of course with WFH in place SWIGGY, Zomato etc have taken over. Home has become office and there are no home lunches or dinners. Dabba wallahs who provided great service for a normal price are now in distress and can’t easily earn their own lunch.

What a blow Corona has delivered!I feel sad that every topic for me descends to Corona finally. Like others I am waiting for the clouds to lift.

This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Maria.

The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini. You can checkout their menu @

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
This entry was posted in Current Events, Environment, Food and Beverages, Friday Three On One blog, Life skills, Poetry, Society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Two Hours to Dinner!! NN

  1. rummuser says:

    How nice to have brought in the famed dabbawallahs of Mumbai into this topic. Having used them on three different occasions I can vouch for their efficiency and how they improved the efficiency of the home too. The dabba had to be ready by a certain time and if it wasn’t one went hungry or had to go to a restaurant for lunch!


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