Mumbai's foodie lifeline to thousands, the dabbawallas, have a case study done on them at Harvard Business School and a six-sigma quality certificate for their delivery system. Yet for them, their lasting claim to fame is attending the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla in the UK back in 2005. Now, with Prince William and wife Kate set to visit the city on Sunday and Monday (April 10 and 11), the dabbawallas are looking forward for a rendezvous with the, “chhote raja-rani.”
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Prince William and Kate smile during their visit to St Thomas' Hospital on March 10, 2016 in London, England. Pic/Getty Images
The dabbawallas though, have not yet heard from the British High Commission about the visit. These men in the trademark white topis though are keeping the faith. The dabbawallas brush with royalty dates back more than a decade, when Prince Charles paid them a visit to Churchgate on his India trip in 2003.
Prince Charles with Raghunath Medge (centre) and Sopan More (left) when in Mumbai in 2003
“If we get to meet Prince William and Kate, we will gift them our trademark topi and an empty dabba as a symbolic gesture. We have a lot of love and respect for Prince Charles, but we were disappointed that we didn’t get an invite for Prince William's wedding,” said Raghunath Medge, head of the Dabbawalla Association, who was one of the only three Indian invitees for Prince Charles' wedding.
A gift for Kate vahini (sister-in-law) will include a shawl and coconut, “It is part of our tradition. We had gifted Camilla vahini with a Paithani sari, mangalsutra, sindoor and green bangles for her wedding. She was very happy,” said Medge, proudly.
The fact that Prince William’s visit has been fairly hush-hush seems to have caused some hurt, though they are trying to not let that dim their enthusiasm.
“I learnt about their (Prince William and Kate’s) visit from the newspaper. I went to London for Prince Charles wedding, where I remember meeting William and Harry. They were just kids then. It would have been great to meet William with his wife. Though I know nothing is scheduled yet, if he decides to meet us suddenly, we will take out time from our schedule,” said dabbawalla, Sopan More.
The dabbawallas meet with Prince Charles lasted for 15 minutes at Churchgate in 2003, a deadline set by the dabbawallas, given their strict schedules. “We have to ensure that a substitute carries on with our deliveries," said More. The dabbawalla service is famed for its clockwork precision and punctuality. More added, “We want to give them a traditional welcome, with dholaks and tutari, to give them a taste of the real Maharashtra.”
A hopeful Chandrakant Bhoir, a dabbawalla who operates in Dadar, says, “I want to give Prince William and Kate a taste of the traditional zunka bhakhar,” before cheekily adding, “they won’t be able to digest the spicy food though, and I will be in trouble!”
Bhoir says he missed out on the chance to meet Prince Charles in 2003, something he has been fuming about till date.
“There was some miscommunication between me and the dabbawalla association, so I couldn’t make it to Churchgate. I hope this time I get meet the Prince. Stories of our hard work were known within India, but Prince Charles’ visit brought us international acclaim and recognition, which we fondly cherish,” Bhoir finished, just as his mandated 10 minutes rest time was up.