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Dead medium: Dabbawallah delivery service
From: bobmorris@mediaone.net (Bob Morris)

Source(s): Source: Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1998 == article paraphrased by Bob Morris

(((Bob Morris remarks: This isn't quite dead media yet, but probably will be soon.)))

(((bruces remarks: There's a definite aroma of "dead medium" here, but it's hard to pinpoint the smell. Fast food delivery still lives. Bicycle messengers are thriving. Maybe it's the unique dabbawallah color-coding scheme that's somehow threatened with "death." Or it may be that lunch simply isn't "media," so that this unique and romantic distribution system is properly outside our purview.)))

In Bombay India it has been tradition for generations for office workers have their lunches, home-cooked by their wives, delivered by dabbawallahs.

There are thousands of dabbawallahs, who pick up the lunches by bicycle from the wife at home, take it by subway to the downtown area, where the lunches are broken up into groups, then hand-delivered. After the lunches have been eaten, the dabbawallahs return to pick up the dabbas ( lunch containers ) and return them to the wife at home.

The delivery system works amazingly well. Lunches are virtually always delivered on time, something which is especially interesting considering that dabbawallahs, as a rule, can neither read nor write. The key to the system is the color coding used on the lunch pails, the color coding signifying the destination. Thus, when thousands of meals arrive at a subway station, they are grouped by color coding, then taken to their destination by a dabbawallah assigned to that route.

However, with the advent of fast food restaurants and wives working too, this color coding scheme will probably be dead within the next few years, as the demand for home- cooked lunch delivery continues to drop precipitously.

Bob Morris (bobmorris@mediaone.net)