For the second time in six years, Mumbai's much-adored and globally-famed dabbawalas, or tiffin-box carriers, have been immortalised in a special comic book, simply titled "Dabbawala", brought out by restaurant chain SodaBottleOpenerWala.
Penned and illustrated by artist Abhijeet Kini, the comic book was released at a function held at the SodaBottleOpenerWala's outlet in Palladium, Lower Parel, on Friday night.
A large number of dabbawalas, who graced the event, were treated to a sumptuous vegetarian feast designed by singer-actress-turned-celeb chef Anaida Parvaneh, who is also a partner with the famed eatery chain.
The brainchild behind the comic book, Anaida confessed that she has been a fan of Mumbai's dabbawalas for over a decade and wanted to do something worthy for them.
"I wanted to honour them and finally the opportunity arrived. To us at SodaBottleOpenerWala, dabbawalas represent the true spirit of Mumbai at its best and are the heroes for all the right reasons," gushed Anaida at the launch of the comic book.
The President of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charitable Trust Ullas S. Muke, said he was pleased that people were recognising the work and contribution of his fraternity.
"This will encourage us to keep working in a systematic manner in the future," said Muke, who heads the 5,000-strong army of dabbawalas ferrying around 2,00,000 tiffin boxes to hungry office-goers daily.
In sync with the dabbawalas' sentiments, Anaida's menu for the evening comprised an all-vegetarian spread including mouth-watering "tawa paneer masala" dabba, vegetable berry pulao dabba, vegetable "dhansak" dabba and a Parsi curry dabba.
Instead of traditional serving bowls, the food was served to the guests on their tables in tiffin boxes, or their trademark 'dabbas'.
The launch coincided with an art exhibition on Mumbai by artist Valay Shende, in which one of the exhibits was a sculpture of a dabbawala, which symbolised the true spirit of the country's commercial capital and the backbone of its food delivery system.
The event was part of SodaBottleOpenerWala's popular Bombay-Irani Cafe and Bar chain of restaurants that regularly highlight various elements of Mumbai via unique presentations.
Incidentally, this is the second time the dabbawalas feature in a comic book format, the previous being the limited edition English-Marathi version "Tina & Tiffin" (2013).
Authored by Pawan Agrawal, who has done a doctoral thesis on Mumbai's dabbawalas, the comic book was distributed free to children in civic schools to serve as an early bird management lesson. It was later turned into a documentary.
"We were hit by resource crunch so we couldn't take it ahead in a big way, but students took to it in a big way," Agrawal told IANS.
The newly-launched "Dabbawala" (Rs 100) portrays the tribe of tiffin carriers as veritable superheros of Mumbai as explained by a father to his young son, and ends with the kid taking a selfie with his favourite dabbawala.
Sponsored by Bhumi World, the proceeds from the book sales will be ploughed into various dabbawala community initiatives, said a spokesperson for SodaBottleOpenerWala.
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