Every day in Mumbai, around 5,000 tiffin-wallahs deliver home-cooked lunches to workers across the city using a complex coding and numbering system painted on each tiffin tin – and despite an astonishing 400,000 transactions every day, there is never a single delivery mistake.
The tiffin-wallahs – all of whom are ancestors of Hindu Martha, and belong to the Mumbai Dabbawala Association – are visiting the UK on a week-long cultural exchange organised by Indian restaurant group Tiffinbites.
The trip is the first abroad for four of the six tiffin-wallahs – the other two were special guests of Prince Charles at his wedding to Camilla in 2005, after he met the tiffin-wallahs on a trip to Mumbai in 2003.
The Indian equivalent of ‘packed lunch boys’, tiffin-wallahs are an esteemed and revered profession in India, where the illiterate and poorly educated wallah-boys are admired for their astonishing acquired mathematical skill and memory aptitude.
Jamal Hirani, CEO and Founder of Tiffinbites, said: “The tiffin-wallahs are an amazing legendary group of people, most of whom had fathers and grandfathers who were also wallah-boys.
“Their remarkable memory skills, as well as their sheer dedication to their trade and hardworking nature, make them an inspiration to those of us who rely computers, email and mobile phones to do our jobs.”
Today’s curry delivery took place in Paternoster Square, next to St Paul’s cathedral, where tiffin-wallahs balanced tiffin baskets weighing 80kgs on their heads while handing out food.
Based on the concept of the tiffin tin, Tiffinbites has four restaurants across London which provide City workers with good quality, convenient and authentic Indian food. Tiffinbites offers real Indian food served the real Indian way, and the name itself is directly inspired by the Tiffin-wallahs.