The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan

This was a nice read for ages 9-12.  I particularly love the romantic and unexpected premise.  Every day in Bombay (Mumbai) a group of deliverymen, dabbawallas, carry thousands of boxed lunches – tiffins – to workers all over the city.  Only one tiffin in millions is ever lost – but that’s what happens in this story.  The missing tiffin in this case has an important note in it, and because it is lost a young boy, Kunal, is separated from his mother.  He grows up in very Harry-Potter-pre-Howarts conditions (except worse), until he is finally rescued by a kind dabbawalla named Vinayak.  When he learns of his mother’s existence, Kunal is determined to find her using the powerful network of tiffins and dabbawallas.

Overall, this was a great read and a very good story.  I sometimes was annoyed by Kunal’s actions and the silly decisions he made out of desperation, and the constant forgiveness he always got from those around them.  But he is young and the forgiveness became important to the story’s end, so I forgave it.  Mostly, I loved the dabbawallas and their network.  I enjoyed the sense of dedication and professionalism they had, and their achievement of delivering those hot lunches all over such an enormous city.  So often India (along with many others countries outside of Europe and North America) is shown to be a place with too much waste, inefficiency and nepotism.  So it was nice to see a network that worked like a well-oiled machine.

A very solid and interesting book for its age range.



Filed under Books I've Enjoyed, Fantasy, Just Read, Middle Grade Fiction

3 responses to “The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan

  1. Hi Kirsten,

    Thanks for a very positive review and glad you enjoyed The Tiffin. And yes, the dabbawallas are a unique aspect of Bombay and wonderful to watch in action. I’m happy that I was able to present another facet of India to the world.

    Best wishes,


    • Kirsten

      You’ll have to thank my wonderful book rep, Aydin Virani, for praising your book and putting it in my hands. It was great – and I have to say, the food descriptions were so wonderful, I’ve been craving Indian food ever since!


      PS You wrote just as I was recommending it to a librarian for use in her classes.

      • If you were in Toronto, I’d definitely invite you over for a meal. And thanks again, Kirsten. It’s always wonderful one someone (preferably not related to me) appreciates my “baby” as much as I do.


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