I have never been fussy about food. Be it at home or outside, I have always managed my culinary problems admirably, so much so that mom always used to comment that I could survive anywhere in the world, as far as food is concerned. It is a different issue that I have never lived outside home (my parent’s home that is,) for more than a month at a stretch, in all the 23 years of my existence. Both my engineering college (VJTI) and my first job at Uhde India Ltd. were based entirely out of Mumbai and thus I easily lost the chance of migrating from Mumbai, and from home. When the rules at SP stipulated that you had to stay on campus all through, I was happy, in a quiet way that finally, I would stay away from home. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s just one of those ‘I have grown up and want to prove my independence’ thing that makes teens in the US with barely visible moustaches move out of their parent’s homes. It is a different issue altogether, that nowadays parents in the US throw them out of their homes forcing them to become independent.
But it didn’t take me more than a week to come crashing down back to the earth. Initially it was the mess food, which recycled the same gravy through various channels into your system, and then the food at Vrindi near the college. End of week one, I was back at home on Wednesday evening, hungry for amma’s tried and tested drumstick sambar and rasam. It was not just me, but everyone was dying for the familiar sights and sounds of home food. Initially, I was the home food provider to the guys, ferrying large boxes of pongal, idli, thayir sadham and sambar to the boy’s hostel. Then the guys themselves discovered Matunga and Mani Iyer’s mess. If there is one hotel in Mumbai which can match a Tam home feast, it has to be Mani Iyer’s mess. So every Thursday was spent travelling all the way from Andheri to Matunga, spending hours in and around Arora theatre and Anand Bhavan. Over time, I found a way, (rather, it was Amu who started it), out of this entire mess, through the famed Mumbai dabbawallah network, applauded by supply chain giants and celebrities such as Prince Charles etc. The dabbawala network is more important to Mumbai than the BMC or the suburban train network and keeps its gastric juices flowing, at more than six sigma efficiency. The biggest reason why fancy new restaurants in Mumbai continue doing good business is because the dabbawala network keeps its tummy safe during the week days. Anyway, as I was saying before, I thus didn’t miss home food even after coming to the hostel. Of course, I eventually did come to miss mom’s kai pakkuvam and that too in a short period of one month when I went to the hills of Tehri Garhwal for the internship project. In fact I missed it so much that we started cooking there itself. But that is the subject of another post.
Bottom line is that the Mumbai dabbawala network does yeoman service in ensuring that the city doesn’t trip on gastro-enteritis and hepatitis regularly, and is so much a part of the life of the average Mumbaikar, that many don’t even realise it. Jai Maharashtra!
this post was written in a bored-to-death presentation session in a derivatives class (that too the fifth class of the day) and hence may be just as boring! but what the heck, it is possibly the truest ;)!