Thursday, May 31, 2007


I don’t have to look at the calendar to know that the end of the school year is upon us. All I have to do is open the Tupperware drawer. It’s pretty slim pickings, and I’m not even that picky. The only piece of actual Tupperware brand plasticware in the drawer is a hand-me-down that was billed as a hotdog carrier. The bottom of the container is composed of bumps and pits which I expect serve as some sort of traction system for the wieners—even the children won’t use it.

They have, however, managed to lose every other remotely airtight container we owned. They claim to only remember a stray piece here or there that they “may” have forgotten, but friends have reported certain aromas that have been traced to their respective lockers. I imagine it’s similar to what exterminators tell us about termites—for every one you spot, there are a thousand more lurking in the unseen depths.

Which was why I found a recent New York Times article so heartwarming. Seems an industrious network of delivery men in India’s Mumbai known as dabbawallas manage to personally deliver tens of thousands of made from scratch lunches to businessmen straight from home to the office—on time, every day, even “in the pouring rain or during political strife.”

The lunches are shuttled via wooden carts, trains, and finally on foot. The Times likened the inner workings of the operation to the Internet: “packets”—in this case, lunch containers—“identified by unique markers are ferried to their destination by means of a complex network.”

Now, if you read my previous post, you know this resonates with me on several fronts: the computer metaphors, the Indian motif. To impart a full picture, it seems like a good time to mention that Prof C, the instructor of my IT class, is Indian. In fact, my daughter accused me of wearing my vintage sari skit to class as a way to “suck up.”

In actuality, I wore the skirt as a personal reminder that although life is wrought with cyclical issues, we deal with them and press on. Enjoy the good, repel the bad. A personal firewall, if you will.

Which actually is another function of the dabbawalla delivery service. Despite the rampant urbanization of Mumbai—with cafeterias, cafés and upscale restaurants cropping up on every corner—the time honored Indian tradition of the home cooked lunch remains intact—insulated as it were from modernization.

We all need firewalls in place to protect the special and sacred elements in our lives.

Yet even as all these layers of meaning and metaphor appeal to me as a writer and journalist—here’s the part of the article that resonated with me as a mom:

“After lunch, the service reverses, and the empty boxes are delivered back home.”

I’m heading straight for the Yellow Pages to see if I can find a local dabbawalla. It would be a whole lot cheaper than replacing the Tupperware.

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