The Lunchbox Miracle + SHORT
| 2007 | 50 min
| Hindi/English | English subtitles
Sunday 18 March
Every day in the Indian megalopolis of Mumbai a logistic miracle happens. Hundreds of thousands of lunches are delivered by so-called dabbawallas who find their way through the mad city traffic to exactly the right person. The dabbawallas form a proud guild and make the impossible happen through an extensive and infallible delivery chain.
Many Indians prefer their curry to be prepared by their wives. In order to transport the hot dish to their working place around lunchtime, Mumbai deploys its dabbawallas. Walla is Hindi for ‘servant’: the chaiwalla serves tea, whereas the dabbawalla serves lunch. What’s particularly special here is the efficiency of this delivery system. With an error rate of one in six million, they have created one of the world’s most successful logistic systems which has garnered the jealous attention of automation companies around the world. And it has achieved all this in spite of the fact that most dabbawallas are illiterate.
The secret lies in the ingenious system of so-called tiffins; characteristic Indian lunch boxes stacked on top of each other to keep them warm, with distinctive painted markings on them that tell the deliverers all they need to know. Bicycles are used to pick up the lunch boxes from the women’s houses, bring them to the railway station, distribute them among the dabbawallas and their respective routes, followed by a handling of the lunchboxes from train to train and delivery man to delivery man with incredible precision. Dabbawallas carry the tiffins skillfully through the chaotic traffic in large portable wooden crates weighing up to sixty kilograms. The distribution points, where the food is passed on, are called rally points, and from there the meals are eventually accurately delivered to spouse, son, or daughter.
The dabawallas form a strong community. In times of trouble they provide for each other, their trade union offer loans and they often celebrate certain religious festivities together. In Mumbai’s slums which are increasingly sandwiched between enormous office buildings, the dabbawallas earn prestige through their honourable profession.
In The Lunchbox Miracle we follow one particular lunch box and its dabbawalla on their daily journey. A hugely enjoyable film for anyone who is fond of India…or curry.
Attend the workshop Mumbai Dabbawalla, inspired by the film. Here you won’t necessarily learn to deliver like a dabbawalla but rather how to cook like an Indian housewife.
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