Vancouver’s Indian Summer Festival draws on centuries of history (w/ photos)

Published: June 29, 2014

The Dabbawalas of Mumbai


Picture 1 of 16

Submitted/ Shahid Datawala

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI 

Born and raised in India, Vancouver’s Sirish Rao never thought twice about the workers he’d see “bustling around” Mumbai train stations carrying a sea of tin lunch boxes in giant wooden crates perched atop their heads.

According to Rao, now artistic director of Vancouver’s Indian Summer Festival (which kicks off Thursday and runs until July 12), the workers are widely known across the city as “Dabbawalas,” which translates to “one who carries a box.” They’re part of Mumbai’s daily chaos, racing through streets and transit hubs to provide a lunch courier service that delivers hot, homemade lunches to workers in the downtown city centre. They begin their day in the outskirts of Mumbai, visiting suburban family homes to pick up the meals, then cycle, walk or take public transport to deliver the goods by the lunch hour.

The Dabbawalas of Mumbai happen to be one of Indian Summer Festival’s highlight events this year, as two workers have agreed to travel to Vancouver for a seminar to share their stories, organizational methods and tips for entrepreneurial success.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s, when Forbes Magazine, Harvard Business School and even Richard Branson started showing an interest in the Dabbawalas’ work, that Rao and many others realized these integral figures of the hectic Mumbai scene were part of one of the “most efficient organizations on the planet,” as they’re known for never making a mistake.

“The organization feeds off the fact that Indians like home-cooked food and hot food,” said Rao. “I’d hear about them all the time.”

“(But) you kind of look around and you don’t know that these guys are so amazing in what they do.”

Indian Summer Festival, now in its fourth year, started out rooted in Indian literature and has since expanded to include all of South Asia in a celebration of art, ideas and diversity through its showcase of local and internationally known South Asian artists.

This year’s eight-day festival offers a range of events from movies in the park, to yoga and bhangra classes, storytelling workshops, speaker series with authors and filmmakers and food tastings.

And while Mumbai’s Dabbawalas may seem an unlikely match for ISF, these workers, in fact, “fit in,” said Rao, as they’re artists themselves.

“If you’re from Bombay and you try to take a suburban train, that itself is an achievement,” Rao said with a laugh. “We want to offer ideas and here is something that’s driven by human passion.

“It’s a story, it’s a narrative — that’s what it’s driven by … this quintessential India, strange story.”

“We have speakers of all kinds — why not entrepreneurs?”

It’s this wide scope that makes ISF so classically Indian, said Rao, which results in “an unusual festival for North America.”

“Here, what normally happens is festivals are very clear about what genre they’re operating in — music, film or literature,” he said. “In India we’re more used to a festival that melds various disciplines.”

“This is a place where worlds meet in every way — disciplines, audiences, artists.”

The goal is to create an intriguing and exciting dialogue that is global in scope.

“We’re offering different perspectives on the world,” said Rao.

Related:

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute 

Event Details:

Lunchbox Legends: The Dabbawalas of Mumbai — Thursday July 10, 6 p.m., SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, $25

For more information and event listings visit indiansummerfestival.ca.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,





Featured

PNG_0920N_BARINDER_RASODE_MAYORAL_ANNOUNCEMENT_218072244

Q & A: Surrey mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode discusses upcoming campaign trail

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI After months of speculation, Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode finally confirmed her bid for mayor in the upcoming election at a…
Continue Reading »

PNG_0920N_BARINDER_RASODE_MAYORAL_ANNOUNCEMENT_218072376

Barinder Rasode takes aim at crime as she officially announces her bid for Surrey’s mayor

  LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI After months of speculation, Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode finally confirmed her bid for mayor in the upcoming election at…
Continue Reading »

Sunday September 19 Vancouver Stanley Park

Gear up for the annual Ismaili Walk at Stanley Park this Sunday

VANCOUVER DESI The 23rd annual Ismaili Walk, which fundraises to improve the lives of local women and children, will take place Sunday in Stanley Park….
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Oliver urges weaker G20 economies to follow Canadian stimulus model

THE CANADIAN PRESS SYDNEY, Australia — Different economic situations require different approaches to meeting the G20′s economic targets, Canada’s finance minister said Sunday as he…
Continue Reading »

PNG_0920N_BARINDER_RASODE_MAYORAL_ANNOUNCEMENT_218072244

Q & A: Surrey mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode discusses upcoming campaign trail

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI After months of speculation, Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode finally confirmed her bid for mayor in the upcoming election at a…
Continue Reading »

PNG_0920N_BARINDER_RASODE_MAYORAL_ANNOUNCEMENT_218072376

Barinder Rasode takes aim at crime as she officially announces her bid for Surrey’s mayor

  LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI After months of speculation, Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode finally confirmed her bid for mayor in the upcoming election at…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

DEPORTED-PAKISTAN

Rally held in Saskatoon in support of 65-year-old woman deported to Pakistan

THE CANADIAN PRESS SASKATOON — Supporters of a 65-year-old woman who was deported to her native Pakistan earlier this week have held a rally at…
Continue Reading »

Designers-entertainment

Fashion over the years in Bollywood

IMROZ MAUR VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood and Fashion go hand in hand; there is no Bollywood without fashion and there is no fashion without Bollywood. They…
Continue Reading »

fried rat in food

Customer finds fried rat mixed in pakoras at Indian railway snack kiosk

VANCOUVER DESI A snack kiosk at a railway station in Western India has been closed down after a customer found a fried rat mixed in…
Continue Reading »

Vancouver-soccer

‘This isn’t lingerie football’: Vancouver Whitecaps video taken down (w/video)

DAN FUMANO VANCOUVER DESI After some fans and Internet commenters cried foul on a new online video promoting the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team, club management…
Continue Reading »

Change

Iran sentences ‘Happy’ dancing youths to six months jail, 91 lashes

IANS Tehran – A group of Iranian youths, who released a video on YouTube dancing to the popular song “Happy” by American singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams,…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Deepika Padukone

Deepika Padukone: Respect us as women off-screen

IANS Mumbai – Deepika Padukone says she has an issue when people “propagate objectification of a real person and not a character being played” and…
Continue Reading »

Parineeti Chopra-Aditya Roy Kapur

Daawat-e-Ishq: Habib Faisal missed the plot

SUBHASH K. JHA IANS  Film: “Daawat-e-Ishq”; Cast: Aditya Roy Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra and Anupam Kher; Director: Habib Faisal: Rating: ** There are two different films…
Continue Reading »

Vinay Virmani

A fun ride with Dr. Cabbie

Q&A: Canadian actor Vinay Virmani’s new movie continues his examination of South Asian immigrant experience ALMAS MEHERALLY VANCOUVER DESI Toronto-born actor and writer Vinay Virmani…
Continue Reading »