Mumbai - The Dabbawala is being immortalised at Haji Ali.
The humble lunch carrier of the city, an integral part of the city landscape will now have pride of place at the Haji Ali circle as part of the RPG Art Foundation's public art initiative.
Conceptualised by Mumbai-based sculptor Valay Shende, the ‘Dabbawala’ has been a recurrent motif in the artist’s work. Valay Shende’s Dabbawala is a 13-feet sculpture made of stainless steel discs that pays tribute to these tiffin-carrying men who epitomise the city’s unique work ethic and ethos. The artist visualizes a hungry stomach as a metaphor for a Dabba (lunch box). The sculpture is likely to be unveiled later this month.
Mumbai’s Dabbawalas are an unusual network of lunch-delivery men who ferry lunch boxes from homes to offices and back with the precision and efficiency that is the hallmark of global courier companies. Their on-time delivery and service excellence generated the curiosity of Harvard Business School professors who studied their unique model and today the business school has a case study on Mumbai’s famous Dabbawalas. The association has also been honoured by the British royal family at more than few occasions.
The sculpture is part of a city beautification plan that was mooted in 2014 by industrialist and art aficionado Harsh Goenka's RPG Art Foundation.
Says Shende, “This is my tribute to the city of Mumbai, which has given me so much. The Dabbawala is an icon for the common man and it is my privilege to have sculptured this larger-than-life representation of it.”
Subhash Talekar, general secretary of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, says, “We have been serving Mumbai for 126 years now. While this fills our stomachs, we have never considered this a business; it has always been to provide our service to the people of this city. We have put in a lot of hard work and labour to ensure that your dabbas (tiffins) reach you on time. However, no one has ever made a statue that represents us; no one has ever given us that honour. We are highly grateful to Mr Goenka for giving us this honour.”