The Daily Telegraph

Food for thought

Lunch-delivering Dabbawala leads India’s official day of mourning

- Joe Wallen and Samaan Lateef

The Indian tiffin carrier who was invited to the King’s wedding and dined with Queen Elizabeth II led an official day of mourning in India yesterday.

Raghunath Medge attended the nuptials of the King and Queen in 2005 after meeting him in India two years earlier.

Medge is a proud member of Mumbai’s 5,000-strong Dabbawala community.

For generation­s, they have delivered hundreds of thousands of cooked lunches across Mumbai every day by bicycle.

The King requested an audience with the Dabbawalas during his 2003 trip to Mumbai.

“He met us in Churchgate [in Mumbai] where us Dabbawalas assemble and he showed a huge interest in our coding system for the food and told us it was one of the world’s most amazing jobs,” Medge recalled.

Relying on a complex system of numerical codes, their ability to cater to the varied diet requiremen­ts of Mumbai’s 24 million residents, without error, led the King to request an audience with the group.

“I brought him some dried fruits from Kashmir and he asked about my health, whether the work caused me pain in my neck and back,” Medge said. “We are poor people, not educated, but the day that we met Charles we felt like gold.”

Speaking from his modest ancestral home in the village of Rajgurunag­ar, about 110 miles from India’s financial capital of Mumbai, Medge recounted the shock of receiving the wedding invitation, along with another Dabbawala colleague, Sopan Mare.

He was not sure why he had personally been chosen but believes it could have been because his father – also a Dabbawala – claimed to have delivered food to relatives of Queen Victoria in the 19th century.

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