The tiffin carrier has been a symbol of many things over time. The basic purpose of a tiffin carrier may have been only to carry food for consumption when you are hungry during any time of the day as you prefer.
However, over a period of time the same tiffin carrier has symbolised different things to different people. The oldest known utilisation of the tiffin carrier was the media of communication between two people. It could have been an innocuous message from a mother to her child or a wife to her hubby.
It later transformed as a messenger service in the pre-digital age. Romantic lovers used the tiffin carrier as an innovative medium of communication, which was indirect and at the same time kept the novelty and inquisitiveness alive at all times. They were used to sending slips inserted in tiffin boxes to their beloved partner.This helped many young couples bond relationships while may have also split a few of them due to mis-communication in the process.
Nowadays tiffin carriers have become popular again and used extensively by food carrier apps and also food delivery services in metro cities for dual career couples. The purpose could be ensuring timely delivery of food apart from saving a lot of valuable time for the working couples, students and single men and women.
What amuses me most is the use of the tiffin carrier to carry food for your family members after you attend a marriage or ceremony in a friend or relative’s home. People nowadays tend to carry food for people back home after they have had a sumptuous meal in a ceremony they have been invited to.
I have nothing against having a grand meal. But it may be unfair to carry a tiffin carrier and carry food back home. This will unnecessarily add costs and inconvenience to the host. While it may still be fine to carry food for the elderly or differently abled back home, it may be better to do the same from a restaurant rather than from a party you are invited to.
Tiffin carriers are also used to send messages of errands. Parents request their children to buy some food, groceries or medicines for them. It could a be reminder to pay phone or utility bills. Thus the tiffin carrier may have been used for multiple purposes over time.
The most interesting story of tiffin carriers is that related to the “Dabbawallahs” ( tiffin carrying men) of Mumbai. This may have started many decades ago when hygienic food was not available in or near offices and factories. So, employees got tiffin from their homes and thus Dabbawallahs evolved this service.
In this service, Dabbawallahs carry tiffin from each home in a bag and code them using a color and keep them in trolleys. They are then hailed in bicycles to the nearest suburban station. It travels by trains to the nearest station of the office. Then gets re-distributed and again hailed in bicycles to the workplace of the employee. The return journey of the tiffin is similar.
These Dabbawallahs have provided a six sigma quality of service to their customers over decades. Their process is simple and there are practically no wrong deliveries. They could provide a living example to organisations of today and beat the artificial intelligence and robotics of tomorrow.
Long live the Tiffin Carrier.
S Ramesh Shankar
12th September 2018