ToGo’s encounter with Mumbai’s Dabbawalas !

ToGo’s encounter with Mumbai’s Dabbawalas !

Aamchi Mumbai dabbawalas!

We wanted to distribute flyers via their dabbas to all their Lower Parel customers, trying to spread word about the Mumbai Chapter of our carpooling mobile app “Together We Go”……an amazing experience worth sharing!

Somehow we got hold of a dabbawala in our locality, i.e. Ghatkopar and asked the Uncle about the location of their office in Mumbai. The Uncle informed us that their office is in Dadar West. By the way, no office address is mentioned online.

So we went to Dadar thinking that dabbawala is a famous association and we would easily be able to find their office. A BIG mistake! It took us over an hour. We had to ask around a lot before we finally reached our destination. There were no banners/posters/street signs. Nothing posh. The office was in a very old building hidden in the streets of Dadar. Even the shopkeeper just two buildings away from the dabbawala office couldn’t show us the way.

Unfortunately we reached at 4 PM when the office was closed. But their was an old guy sitting on a creaky chair clad in customary white clothes and Gandhi cap in the building’s compound – a Mr. Ghuleji. He greeted us with a warm ‘Namaste’! We discussed our requirements with Ghuleji, and he gave us the rates and all for circulating flyers via their dabbas. Of-course he could barely speak Hindi, so it was way too difficult to interact. He called his fee as “rokda” which was kind of funny. During the conversation, he also mentioned that their association is 125 years old. Can you beat that!! But the best part was that he said that the dabbawala association would help us only because our concept of carpooling is worth spreading and is kind of need of the hour. Such conversations keep us motivated! 🙂

Anyways, the next day we reached their hub in Lower Parel at around 11 AM with 10k fliers. They had to fill 10k dabbas with our flyers! We were very skeptical and kept pestering Ghuleji about how they would do it in an hour. What I saw next…. was pure art!

100 dabbawalas attacked the otherwise deserted hub at around 11 AM, filled their dabbas with our fliers, and carried them away on their bicycles and handcarts, in under 20 minutes! Lo and behold, the whole process was over in less than 20 minutes! I randomly checked a couple of dabbas to make sure that they had actually filled them. And they had! There was hardly any exchange of words. All of them knew what had to be done. I wish I had taken a video of the process. A day to remember – although the 20 mins will be a fuzzy memory as I couldn’t make sense of the intense activity around me. An experience with the dabbawalas – highly recommended. Respect!

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