The renowned dabbawalas of Mumbai have sent King Charles III special gifts in the form of the traditional ‘Puneri Pagadi’ headgear and ‘Uparne’ stole, ahead of his coronation ceremony in London on May 6.
The ‘Puneri Pagadi’ or traditional headgear, a symbol of pride and honour, was introduced in the 19th century and remains an important part of Maharashtra’s Pune city’s cultural heritage.
‘Uparne’ or a traditional stole, is a piece of fabric worn by men over their shoulders during traditional ceremonies.
The dabbawalas, who are famous for their globally renowned lunchbox delivery and return system that supplies hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work, sent these gifts to show their respect and admiration for the occasion.
According to Ramdas Karwande, president of the Mumbai Dabbawala Sanghatana, they have not received an invitation to the coronation ceremony of King Charles III.
However, some of their office-bearers were recently invited by the British Deputy High Commission for a function at the Taj Hotel, where they presented the ‘Puneri Pagadi’ and ‘Uparne’ to the authorities who will ensure that the gifts reach the King.
Karwande also shared that two members of their association were invited to the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. On that occasion, the dabbawalas had sent a Maharashtrian turban and a nine-yard sari as gifts.
Karwande stated that on this occasion, they received a special invitation for the function at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, where they were felicitated and received special treatment.
“Nobody gave such an importance to the poor dabbawalas, but they invited and felicitated us. Our members were delighted and overwhelmed by the gesture,” he said while conveying good wishes to King Charles for his coronation.
The dabbawalas of Mumbai have had a long-standing relationship with the British royal family. During his visit to India in 2003, Prince Charles met with the dabbawalas and commended their work ethic, precision, and punctuality, having been impressed by their culture of hard work.
The dabbawalas take immense pride in their motto of ‘timely delivery,’ which they uphold with unwavering dedication, regardless of the sweltering heat or heavy rains that Mumbai often experiences.
In 1998, Forbes magazine conducted an analysis of the 100-year-old dabbawala business and awarded it a ‘Six Sigma’ efficiency rating, underscoring their exceptional performance in delivering lunchboxes with remarkable precision and accuracy.
Over 1,500 dabbawalas are currently operating in Mumbai, delivering around 200,000 tiffins to office-goers on working days. These dabbawalas rely on the suburban train system to ensure timely delivery of the lunch boxes.
The majority of the dabbawalas come from the Maval area in western Maharashtra. However, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, many of them have moved back to their hometowns in Pune district.