Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

Modern technology is no match for Mumbai’s 125-year-old lunchtime delivery service. Lottie Gross meets the city’s much-lauded dabbawalas.

Indian road traffic makes way for no-one. No one, that is, except the dabbawalas of Mumbai—the world-famous, much-lauded lunchbox delivery men who take to the city’s trains to transport hot meals from home to office daily.

They’ve been studied by Harvard professors and visited by royals from all over the world: Two of them even attended the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. And they’ve been fascinating travelers for decades too. I first read about the dabbawalas (dabba meaning lunchbox and wala being the person/the one with) a decade ago, in an edition of the Rough Guide to India. I could scarcely believe the system still existed, what with the modern era bringing an end to so many manual jobs across the world.