An exhibition on the city’s dabbawalas, ‘Spirit of Bombay’, by artist Valay Shende, is underway at Palladium, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel till June 18. The solo exhibition consists of six art pieces, including large sculptures that attempt to show the resilience of the city’s residents, and images of commuters in the Virar Fast local train.
“The dabbawalas are unsung heroes, often not getting the credit they deserve,” says Shende (38), whose fascination with dabbawalas began when he first arrived here from Nagpur in 2000 to study at the JJ School of Arts. Shende made his first art piece on dabbawalas in 2008, and his interest in the subject culminated in a large sculpture that was erected at Haji Ali in 2017. But the one piece that stands out, at his exhibition, is a piece of dabbawala made completely out of ticking clocks.
An excellent delivery system, the dabbawalas have been studied at Harvard Business School. They are known for maintaining their exceptional efficiency even during strong rains and floods.
Dabbawalas Raghunath Medge and Sopan Mare also made a trip to London after they received the royal invite to Prince Charles’s wedding in 2005.
Ulhas Muke, President of the Dabbawala Association, tells The Indian Express, “It’s always heartwarming to receive appreciation and this exhibition is a huge deal for us. The rains don’t stop us. Lunches are delivered piping hot to offices as long as the city’s local trains run.”
Spirit of Bombay also celebrates the launch of DabbaWala Superhero, an English and Marathi comic created by cartoonist Abhijit Kini. The comic has been designed to celebrate the service of the dabbawala to the history and economy of Mumbai.
In 1890, the concept of delivering home-cooked lunches was established by a Parsi gentleman. More than a century later, home-cooked meals are still being delivered to people’s offices by at least 5,000 dabbawalas, who commute on the city’s local trains daily.