Monday, June 19, 2006

The Four Storey Tiffin and other tales

In response to my request for 'lunch stories' techie Ajay Shenoy sent in this hilarious observation.

You would think in this day and age of fancy cafetarias/ food courts and working couples, the 'home tiffin' culture might have taken a hit. But at Ajay's company that certainly doesn't seem to be the case...

Lunch Byte - 1
by Ajay Shenoy
It's lunchtime and the crowd splits into two.

One table of happily married guys with huge lunch boxes in their insulated hot-stays-hot-cold-stays-cold pots.(If I were one of them I would know the right word for it, and the shop where I can buy it cheap).

The other table of guys who are condemned to eat the canteen food: ready made chapatis with paneer curry, dal and kurma - all tasting the same and the best part, in my opinion, the cut cucumber pieces.

Dinesh on the other table dismantles carefully his 4 storeyed lunch box. Chicken curry in one compartment, chapatis in the other, ghee rice in another and soaked and peeled badam seeds in the last.

Vishaal joins him with some Mallu delicacy drenched in coconut oil, with banana chips and halwa for dessert.

The guys on my table are too nauseated to look at our own plates. So we look at each others disgruntled faces. "Someday I am going to get my own lunchbox from home", Sanket quips.

Sanket has been waiting eagerly for his day on the other table, and has been screening resumes for a good cook, who is a bachelor in engineering, hails from a good family, God fearing, humble and homely, speaks the same dialect of Kannada that he does, and has stunning looks (but not so stunning that his friends will start "putting chance" on her).

In less urban and modernised parts of the state, he does find girls who fit that bill, waiting to be swept off their feet by a software engineer who owns a secondhand Maruti car and an apartment in a posh residency filled with other software engineers with second hand Maruti cars.

He was visibly disappointed after his last 'interview', because the girl was too modern for him. (apparently she rejected him before he had a chance to guage if she was enough "well-endowed").

Cross table conversation soon follows, the topics dwelling on marriage, shopping with wife, visiting in-laws, end of good ol' days of boozing at a friend's place. The talks remain superficial, not once scratching the surface, but far from encouraging for guys on the other side of the greenery.

As we scrape the last remains of the dal on our plates, we are happier about our single status and the fact that we are through with lunch. Both until we see the big lunch boxes on the next day of course!

Thinking out loud
Ha ha! So this is a common scene in most tech companies? Is it seen more in certain cities/ regions?

Ajay adds that he works for a sub-100 staff company which doesn't have enouugh volume for caterers to make the extra effort. Thus the company awards only 3 month contracts and based on consumer feedback renews or discountinues the same.

Perhaps we see less tiffins in the big companies where there are fancy food courts? Or is it still every guy's secret fantasy to open a 4 storey tiffin with ghee rice and soaked badams.

P.S> I do take a tiffin to office most days but it's just 2 storeys, no badams and cooked by a maid!

Send in your lunch tales/ observations to If I get enough good stuff, might turn it into a series :)


  1. was a good reading, another kind of grouping that I have noticed mostly among the females is based on the healthy ness of the food. A group surviving on only salads and fruits in order to cut on calories and other ...enjoying the varied spectrum of cusines on offer

  2. Hi , that was hilarious, :))

    Rashmi, really looking forward to more in the series.

    In my company, people discuss work during lunch. Sometimes, even the boss comes up and asks for status.
    Gosh I hate that. Yaar , khaana to khaane do shanti se.

    I recall a boss in my previous company who used to give cold hard stares to people who used to be on the lunch area after 2pm. (Doesnt matter whether the poor chap went to lunch at 1:50 pm cos he was busy with something). I used to feel like leaving my lunch halfway, not due to fear of him but due to kharaab mood after seeing him. But then, I did not, cos its not a good thing to waste food (except in unavoidable situations).

    And most non-work discussions tend to be on the flavour of the day. Its Fifa world cup football these days, mostly, otherwise its rising oil prices and international politics etc, rakhi sawant, reservations, etc. And of course, girls, girlfriends, gossip and arranged marriage stuff.

  3. Well since I have belonged to both the groups mentioned in the article, I am in a situation to evaluate the pros and cons of each.

    I got married and still, for a year, resided in a different city (Bombay) from my wife (Pune). So I had to either ear the office caterer or order something in, or of course, go out to eat.

    The advantages of being an NDP (Non-dabba Person) are that--
    1) You can have a variety of food everyday, instead of the same old tripe served at the canteen/pantry.
    2) You can safely sneer at the seemingly henpecked husbands who are forced to eat what their wives decide to feed them.
    3) You can happily decide NOT to eat on a day you feel "fat" or "not hungry" with no repercussions whatever (e.g. wife screaming, parents reminding you of starving children in Somalia etc.)

    The disadvantages of being an NDP--
    1) When the guy on the next table opens a dabba, and you get the aroma of mutton biryani. You then suddenly wish you had been a better friend to him (you especially regret calling him a joroo-ka-ghulam yesterday).
    2) The cost - you realize that because of ordering in from Subway and other related joints, and because you are eating out 3 days a week, you suddenly don't have enough money to go to the pub on the weekend to spend another frustrating evening ogling at girls you might never have, but at least can aspire to.

    What about DPs then? Mostly the reverse. The advantages--
    1) Ah! Home cooked food. Dal, chapati, biryani, even chutney, papad and achaar! What variety! What taste!
    2) The quality of food is uniformly good, unless you married your wife for love or her looks, thus ignoring the cooking. The same goes for hiring your cook.
    3) Money saved is money earned! Every paisa saved will go into that corpus fund that will contribute towards the Swarovski pendant your wife wants on her birthday. If you have a child, then towards the latest Superman or Krrish action figure.

    1) No freedom to choose. You have to eat whatever you get in the dabba at, the discretion of the wife or the cook, sometimes both in collusion. It is then you start looking wistfully at the next table - those young, single, carefree guys wo can eat what they want, when they want.
    2) Dangerous possibilities for good health - woe betide you of the wife suddenly decides that you are getting too plump! You dabba will contain nothing but saag and roti, maybe some salad for the near future.
    3) The pressure - not many people realize that there is an inplicit competetion even between men as to the contents of the dabba they bring. It is easy to laugh off comments like - "What happened to your dabba yaar. Forst two months after marriage, your wife used to give you delicious stuff. Now you get saag-roti. Kya hua - jhagda hua kya? Ya pyaar kam ho gaya. HAHAHAHAHA." Cruel, I tell you. It is difficult to live up to a dabba reputation and be scrutinized by dabba nazis. Now I know how the fashionistas feel when they are pictured in their pajamas and ridiculed by the tabloids!

    So who wins finally? The moocher guy who hangs around the pantry taking bites out of both the NDPs and DPs' food. He gets the best of both worlds...

  4. Working in an investment bank in London, lunch (and dinner unfortunately is eaten in the cafetaria in the basement)
    Though most senior guys and traders have their lunch at their desks, staring at their bloomberg screens, I figure out which dish being served in the cafetaria is vegetarian, and well supplement whatever i eat with an apple or two.

    And all the days i pray there is some pasta, (all the desi veggies here thank god for italian food)

    Though i am no foodie, it reminds me of my mums food, or even at times in the IIMA mess :)

    Might understand my plight

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