Storage and Transport systems of the Great Indian middle class :A “Case“study

Probably during my grandmom’s times the vessels and dabbas were made of stainless steel and the middle class could afford only a few. So the first thing that families did was get their name and date engraved on the dabba/vessel. This also protected the dabba as it was used to identify when found in someone else’s household. During the later years, some of the restaurants also followed the engraving “Stolen from ..”, in the hope that the thief would be ashamed to steal, in vain. The families mostly being joint had only large containers used for storing all staples like dals, flour, and also snacks/sweets made during festivals perhaps

Advent of the tiffin carrier

As time progressed the families became smaller. Also, people started working away from their homes and traveled larger distances each morning making it unviable to get back home for lunch. This was the start of the carry your food to work when you didn’t work in a factory. Most factories served their workers a huge lunch at a very small price. A lot of them made the most of it (more about it sometime else ). So the ones that needed to carry food probably made good with the engraved dabbas either bought or gifted by someone. The gifted dabbas had names of who gifted it to whom and on which date and occasion.Some of the families even had a multi-layer tiffin carrier which helped with the food not getting all mixed up in a single container. The next improvement in this area was the Indian need to eat food hot, while Bombay had the dabbawalas the rest of the country had to procure the “hot case”.The hot case was a show-off in the office and was somehow mistaken to keep food fresh as well.

The just in case dabbas
Indian middle-class households never throw two things, the newspapers, and the dabbas. These dabbas are the ones that have been sent by a restaurant for their food delivery. The dabbas are carefully cleaned, wiped, and stored for a rainy day. When indeed a rainy day happens ,these dabbas are used for packing giveaways of extra food the caterer made to the relatives OR that cake to be packed for children who didn’t turn up.That’s when everyone who wanted to giveaway these lovelies is confronted with the “See I told you”. Builders, and carpenters please take note and build an extra storage space for these temporarily preowned loved ones.The capacity of the storage can be determined based on Swiggy/Zomato order history. I would put the empty glass bottles from Nestle,Nescafe,Nandini etc in the same category though some of them may be actually used to store stuff.

The Russian doll dabbas
Some companies make these dabbas which attract the Indian householder as much as the Russian doll did in the past. A dabba in a dabba in a dabba and more, you get the idea. The purpose apparently is to store stuff to be used in long term in the largest dabba, to the smallest one for immediate daily use and everything in-between left to the owner’s imagination. While the world was recommending Think BIG, the moms were busy thinking how small and cute can these fellas get and kept shopping endlessly .The trouble began when the number of dabbas become too many and one didn’t know which dabba had what. Then came the post-it notes inside the larger dabbas , the cute little fellas were just that ,cute and useless.

The king of dabbas
Last known ,the king of dabbas was released into the world as a panacea for all issues known to mankind. Lasts forever, guaranteed for life , if broken you can get them replaced for new ones so on and so forth. The marketing was the best India has seen perhaps .Every household worth its salt had started to hoard these for every purpose ranging from storage to transportation to tiffin carriers. Some even took household franchises as agents .
Yes, I am talking about Tupperware and the success of the product was so huge that the imitations hit the market immediately with every possible term ending with a ‘ware.. These products were so protected that many children and husbands have gone back to school/work to retrieve the forgotten dabba before they head back home. They would rather lose a limb than the king.

After all this I have stopped thinking of “Dabba nan maga” as an insult .. Proud to be treated as a loved one …Don’t even get me started on the dabbas in the fridge, that needs separate “ treatment “ .

Hurry up! Don’t miss out! Quick!

The world is at a frenzied pace in most aspects of our lives! Are we in a sense losing out ( FOMO) if we enjoy doing some things slow and at an enjoyable pace?

We do it to our children :
Hurry up! We are getting late for the bus.
Hurry up! eat your snack soon and start doing your homework
What is 234567 multiplied by 3456? Quick
We have been brainwashing children that they have to be quick at everything they do be it getting ready, displaying a life skill say eating well, or even for that matter all our entrance exams for education/jobs mostly is a race against time

We display it in public places :
The plane has landed, let’s get off fast before it takes off again
The signal will turn red in 2 seconds, let’s cross it anyway, even if we put someone else at risk
Jump queues, I am more important than the others, my time is precious

Based on what we were told when we were children we still want to be First ( faster than the rest) to get to something. While there would be situations that are an emergency, are we wired so strongly that we want to be ahead of others irrespective of our situation or theirs?

We are doing it to our banking system:
My google pay is down, can you please check yours
Don’t have google pay, can you pay from Phone pay
I paid, can you please check now !!!

There was a time when cheques were issued across banks and the clearing cycle could even run into weeks. We got that to a couple of hours and now we have instant payments. The challenge is not that we have instant payments, but are we ready to manage things when the “Instant” is down for an instant?

We are doing to our food/grocery/things delivery
I can see your location, What is taking you so long
Just 1 km from my house, for idli. vade why 30 min to deliver?
Why not 10 minute delivery of groceries and food?

We walked across to the groceries stores to fetch stuff we needed and planned, We hated parcels unless it was an emergency. The fresh food and extra chutney /sambar at the restaurant ending with a strong filter coffee was a delight.

We seem to be in a hurry in every aspect of our lives, from everyday tasks, food, etc to buying a car, a home in our early 20s.

Not at all against the fast-paced life and changes that are evolving with it, Just some questions that arise

Are there some aspects/things that we want to still do well and slowly?

Most of us tend to slow down, observe things, chat leisurely while we wait for our drink/food, read, do nothing during our vacations, and are happy doing so, Is there a Malgudi* kind of city/town life possible in today’s world?

Are we and our next generation ready to wait if something doesn’t work OR when someone else is really in hurry?

The 10-minute food delivery from Zomato triggered this piece

Hurry H(om)e !!


The Laughing Buddha


Raju and Kamala man and wife, hailed from a brahmin priest family of Dakshina Kannada (South Canara, coastal region of Karnataka). They had moved to   Bangalore looking for better prospects. Bangalore had more people, and more temples, hence more ceremonies, and were seen as a multitude of opportunities.

Raju’s guru had given him a laughing Buddha -” Laugh and the world will laugh with you “. Raju believed in the concept and had even started a laughter club at the park close to his temple to beat the stress. He practiced the art of laughing every morning with the regulars. He would always carry the small Buddha as a good luck charm which got him enough business to lead a comfortable life.

After their son, Mahesha was born a favorite pastime was to sit on the ledge outside their house and dream of the younger ones’ future. Every time this conversation led to them giving up the city life and moving back to their ancestral village in Dakshina Kannada to run the family temple. After all, Dakshina Kannada was the best district when it came to results of Class X, both averages and the sheer number of rank holders. Rajus’ wanted to give their son the best possible education. It was also important to them that Mahesha learnt about the rich culture, and heritage of the land. As he grew to be 12 they started getting worried that he would fall into bad company in Bangalore. They bid goodbye to neighbors, the laughter club patrons, and temple regulars, They made the move.

Mahesha apart from helping around with work at home and the temple turned out to be a studious boy, making the Rajus’ proud. A few years later one happy morning they were all decked up to take a bus to Manipal university for Mahesha admissions. The whole trip was planned by Raju and Kamala the previous night. It would be a stopover at Udupi Sree Krishna Mutt to seek his blessings before finishing Manipal admissions. Celebrations would begin at Woodlands with Mangalore buns /Goli Baje* and end at Diana with a cutlet and a Gudbad*.

Mahesha stayed at the Manipal hostel and would make weekly visits to the village to spend time with his parents, get his clothes washed, eat home-cooked food, and meet his local friends. Rajus’ were feeling blessed with the move they made and the life they had set up around the village. Every evening they thanked God for this.

4 years later on Yugadi(Kannada new year’s day), Mahesha’s final results would be out. Kamala had woken up early to make the Bevu Bella* and also started preparations to make two kinds of Holige*. It was indeed a big day, they had dreamt of this all their lives.

Raju reached home early, finished his evening prayers picked his lucky charm and they waited for Mahesha to bring home that degree. They were filled with a sense of pride to have an engineer in the house, a first of the kind in the family.

Mahesha bowed down to God, then his parents, and gave his father the 2 documents. Raju saw the first and tears rolled down his eyes seeing the marks card. He moved slowly to the second document; a million thoughts now ran through his mind.

Why did God do this to them? What would he tell his relatives and friends back in Bangalore? Mahesha had married his classmate, Rashmi from a different caste.  The laughing Buddha slipped from his hand and shattered into a thousand pieces as Rashmi walked in to seek their blessings.

Is this the real meaning of the Ugadi bevu bella?

What about you, is your laughing buddha still intact?

Bevu bella– a traditional mixture of neem and jaggery — a bittersweet reminder that the year ahead will have its share of ups and downs too


Goli baje are crisp fried fritters made with flour, curd, spices and herbs


Gadbud — Gadbad is a much loved Mangalorean ice cream dessert that’s made with more than one flavor of ice cream, nuts, chopped fruits, jelly, syrup & tutti Frutti. It’s served layered in a tall glass ,

Two different stories support the birth of this delicious Gadbad Ice cream.

“Gadibadi” the slang in Kannada for mayhem, chaos or confusion led to the name “Gadbad”.Gadbad Ice cream is believed to have originated in Diana Restaurant in Udupi, Mangalore, Karnataka

One day a customer became furious when he ordered an ice cream in the restaurant & was served with meagre amount.To calm him down the cook of the restaurant dumped various left over scoops of ice cream in a bowl & dressed it up with nuts, jelly, fruits & syrup. It was brought to him as a compensation.This accidental ice cream dessert was much loved by the angry customer & thus found a permanent place in the menu of Diana restaurant.

The second story claims that the founder of the Diana restaurant Mr. Mohandas Pai accidentally invented Gadbad Ice cream.

One fine day when he ran out of several flavors of ice cream he decided to give a group of customers what he had as a left over.He scooped out the left over ice creams in a bowl & threw some nuts, fruits, jelly & syrup to make it more appealing & than served them the dessert.The customers loved it so much that they came back for that lovely invention of Mr. Mohandas Pai.


Holige – Different varieties of Indian sweet flatbread are served in Karnataka during Ugadi specifically. The most common is the one prepared with yellow gram and sugar or jaggery. Holige is also prepared using coconut and jaggery as ingredients. Also called Puran poli in Maharastra


Fear of a Bihari nation

I’ve fascinated by regions that border each other and have very different fertilities. For example, Saudi Arabia has a TFR of 2.2 and Yemen one of 4. Today it looks like Bihar has a fertility of around 3.0 and West Bengal 1.6. Bihar surpassed West Bengal in the late 1990’s, and is still more populous even without Jharkhand. But the data below suggest to me that West Bengal experienced a “windfall” population growth with the arrival of Hindus from East Pakistan and Bangladesh in the decades after partition, and we’re sort of reverting back to the mean…

Ertugrul is badass

I watched a few episodes of Ertugrul and it’s pretty good. I would prefer less of a Marvel-comics style character…Ertugrul and his alps basically are just killing machines who never get injured while taking down dozens of Christian knights. But it is good for what it intends to be, a dramatic rendering of the origins of the Ottoman mythology.

What’s the Indian equivalent? I assume a Shijavi TV series, but is there something with good production values?

Intellectual Brown Web

Sarah Haider, Shadi Hamid, myself and Murtaza Hussain recorded an impromptu podcast that we titled the “Intellectual Brown Web.” These are basically people I know well (I am good friends with both Sarah and Shadi) or who got involved in Twitter threads repeatedly (Murtaza). But there is no “Hindo-origin person.” Since I don’t give a shit about representation or affirmative action I don’t care too much…but this got me thinking, what based Hindu Americans would you have on? I know plenty of based Hindus from India…but most Hindu Indian Americans are Rho Khanna at the most based.

I mean think about this: why the fuck am I having to write long pieces about how the anti-caste discrimination stuff is bullshit? I’m just a tech entrepreneur who isn’t even from a Hindu background. Suhag at HAF does stuff and others, but where are the big hitters? Instead you have public Hindu Americans proudly pushing this stuff.

Note: there are plenty of based Hindu Americans who are doctors, engineers and business people. They just aren’t public people. Which is fine, but if you don’t speak for yourself, at some point Razib Khan is going to get tired of doing so.

American University in Delhi?

India might open to foreign universities. That could be a game-changer:

And India’s higher education system badly needs shaking up. Setting aside issues of quality (as if those can be set aside), India does not come close to providing sufficient seats to those aspiring to higher education — a glaring shortcoming as India’s burgeoning middle class strives to prepare their children for the opportunities of the future.

India’s system has its successes, of course, but they are narrow. Just nine Indian higher education institutions made the top 500 of the most recent QS World University Rankings. The top one — the Indian Institute of Science (at 155) — is a highly specialized institution focused on postgraduate studies and research in the sciences. The other eight are part of the well-known Indian Institutes of Technology, which specialize in engineering. The highest-ranked comprehensive university was the University of Delhi, falling in the 520s.

That is simply not good enough. All told, India has just over 1,000 institutions of higher learning. China, with a similar population, has three times that. The United States, with a much smaller population, has four times as many.

This all sounds find, but India will replicate some of the US’s pathologies in the education sector. The “consumer model” of higher education has been causing serious problems here over the past few decades. The op-ed even states that “Private universities, too, are overly regulated and cannot operate for profit. That deters the best entrepreneurs from entering the sector.” Entrepreneurs entering the sector was a disaster, and for-profit colleges were a way to absorb student loans from the public fisc.

But I wish India well.

Brown Pundits